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Controversial bill gives Board, not Director, power

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 22, 2012) - Parliament has passed amendments to the Fisheries Act removing powers from the managing director and placing them with the Fisheries Board.

The government mustered the absolute majority of 55-2 votes to pass the amendments introduced by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

O’Neill said the amendments were to remove powers vested with the managing director and to strengthen the powers of the national fisheries board.

He said it was a concern that the management, without the board’s approval, had signed fishing treaties and handed out fishing licences.

O’Neill said this was one of the amendments that would see the provincial governments usurping some powers over their three-mile economic zone.

Opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu and her new deputy leader Sam Abal opposed the amendments which they claimed would have serious repercussions.

Dame Carol said she was surprised that the prime minister brought in the amendments instead of the Fisheries Minister.

She said that under the new laws, the Minister had two appointees to the fisheries board which could allow political influence to creep in.

"There are also suggestions that some of our markets will be placed at risk with these amendments specially the politics and political interference in the granting of licenses,’’ she said.

"We may be jeopardising some of our international markets with this amendment."

Abal, a former diplomat, said the international market especially the European Union was very cautious on abuse and corruption in the fishing industry.

"Once they suspect that there is bad practice and influence at the political level on the issuing of licences, then there may be questions raised."

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