PNG Opposition Seeks Court Order Against Amendments

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Ombudsman Commission urged to intervene in issue: Kulang

By Haiveta Kivia

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 4, 2013) –The Opposition will seek a Supreme Court Preventive Order against Papua New Guinea’s parliament from debating and voting proposed amendments to Section 145 and Section 124 of the Constitution.

Shadow Minister for Public Enterprises and Member for Kundiawa-Gembogl, Tobias Kulang, said the Opposition will seek to prevent parliament from debating the proposed amendments because the Opposition’s Supreme Court Reference on the 30 months Grace Period extension is already before the Court.

Mr. Kulang and the Opposition are also calling on the Ombudsman Commission to be an intervener in the matter, which is of significant National importance.

"The Ombudsman cannot stand by and watch democracy and parliamentary responsibility threatened for selfish and short term political gain," he said.

Mr. Kulang and the Opposition are referring to the amendments proposed to section 145 of the Constitution in addition to the 30 months grace amendment by the government, with respect to votes of no confidence, and amendments to section 124, which deals with the callings of parliament.

He said this was nothing more than a selfish and heartless scheme designed to secure the government a full five-year term in office by removing or weakening key safeguards of our democracy.

The government is trying to use its numerical strength to amend Section 124 and Section 145 of the Constitution by repealing it and amending the sitting days of the parliament from 63 days to 40.

Mr. Kulang said Section 145 is about good governance, transparency and accountability.

"It is not about tenure of office of the executive government," Mr. Kulang said.

He said that is why the Opposition vigorously opposed the first amendment to 145, which extended the grace period from 18 months to 30 months.

He said the 30 months extension and the new proposals to further amend section 145 and 124 are a very serious abuse of the Constitution.

"It is an unwarranted challenge to democracy and constitutional rule in this country. The amendments are misconceived and mischievous," he said.

"It is simply designed for Peter O’Neill to stay in office for the full five year term irrespective of whether his conduct or circumstances he is found to be in, warrant parliament to remove him as Prime Minister."

He said the grace period has been increased to 30 months and only allows an 18-month window period for the Opposition and parliament to hold the government to account for its activities through the vote of no confidence clause.

He said parliament has to meet frequently to maintain the scrutiny over the performance of the executive arm of government.

"These cunning maneuverings may see parliament convene for the proposed 40 days in the earlier part of the year and may not need convene any further. You may have long adjournments like what happened during late PM Bill Skate days."

He said the current proposed changes in Section 145, which intends to increase the notice period from one week to three months to move a vote of no confidence, is indirectly removing this clause entirely and making it completely redundant.

Mr. Kulang said in light of these threats against the national Constitution and national interest, the Opposition would like to strongly recommended the following steps to be taken immediately:

Most times, the executive arm appears to overpower the legislative arm of government.

For this to happen, we need to consider a presidential style of government where the president, who heads the executive arm of government, is not part of the Senate of Congress. This is to prevent the reoccurrence of the Kitchen Cabinet syndrome.

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