Former PNG Ombudsman Counsel: O’Neill Breached Constitution

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Yalo says PM has ‘usurped the powers of Parliament’ over UBS loan

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 27, 2014) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has usurped the powers of Parliament by approving the K3 billion [US$1 billion] UBS loan without parliamentary approval, a leading constitutional lawyer says.

Former Ombudsman Commission counsel Nema Yalo said the transaction was a clear breach of Section 209 of the Constitution which stated that it was a mandatory requirement for Parliament to approve the loan.

He said despite media reports that the massive loan was a "done deal" the Ombudsman Commission was empowered to investigate whether the Government had breached provisions of the Constitution.

"If the Ombudsman Commission finds that provisions of the Constitution were breached, it is empowered to direct that the transaction be reversed," Yalo said yesterday.

He reiterated that Parliament’s approval of the loan transaction was mandatory.

Section 209 (1) states: "Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the raising and expenditure of finance by the National Government, including the imposition of taxation and the raising of loans, is subject to authorisation and control by the Parliament, and shall be regulated by an Act of the Parliament."

Yalo said that O’Neill’s decision to sign off on the loan as acting Treasury Minister without Parliament’s approval was a direct breach of this provision.

"The Prime Minister cannot take the matter to Parliament to ratify after the transaction has been concluded. Parliament is only empowered to approve the loan proposal and not to ratify a transaction that it has not approved."

Yalo said the K3 billion loan proposal should have been included in the 2014 Budget that was duly processed and approved by Parliament in November last year.

"The bulldozing of this massive and unprecedented loan transaction is a clear example of the dictatorial nature of the current regime," he said.

"As well, the current executive government’s dominance of Parliament has compromised the independence of the house as it is unable to provide the necessary checks and balances on key legislation and large financial transactions."

Yalo said the usurping of parliamentary powers bore serious consequences in Western democracies and political leaders who were found guilty of such breaches faced impeachment and dismissal from office.

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