Speaker Jeffrey Nape is misleading Papua New Guineans, says TIPNG

13/03/2012 00:55

TIPNG: Speaker Jeffrey Nape is misleading Papua New Guineans


National parliament speaker Jeffrey Nape is misleading Papua New Guineans with incorrect interpretations of the constitution, the PNG Chapter of Transparency International has warned.

The speaker, who has often come under scrutiny in recent years over his unorthodox handling of parliamentary matters, took out a full-page advertorial in a local newspaper to rebut the views of PNG lawyer Dr John Nonggorr that only the electoral commissioner can determine the dates of an election.

“Nowwhere is the constitution or in the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections does it provide that the Electoral Commissioner is to determine the date of the elections. The constitution expressly states that election shall be held when the parliament decides in accordance with Section 105(1)(c) of the constitution,” Mr Nape stated in the advertorial.

However TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephen in response said the constitution was explicit in stating that a term of parliament would not exceed five years and politicians did not have the right to extend their tenures in office.

“It is apparently very clear from the constitution that a term of parliament shall not exceed 5 years. It is also apparently very clear that MP's do not have the right to give themselves extra time as MPs. Mr Nape quotes a section of the constitution, which needs to be read subject to the over-all principles embodied in the constitution – that Parliament is accountable to the people at intervals of no more than five years, and there is no provision to extend beyond the specified period. The speaker also claims ‘the electoral commissioner has no authority or power to determine’ that an extension of time is needed. Again his advice appears to have been incorrect,” Mr Stephen added.

“We are advised that it is clear that it is the Electoral Commission alone, which has the power to advise the head of state to defer any part of the general elections. It is disappointing to find that the Office of the Speaker has apparently been advised otherwise. We believe it to be essential that constitutional office holders be fully and truthfully advised on the constitution.”

Mr Nape's advertorial appears to be leaning towards the deferral of the general election, scheduled for June this year, in support of similar sentiments expressed by Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah despite assurances by PM Peter O’Neill that the polling will start as scheduled.

Mr Stephen said there appeared to be individuals who were trying to confuse the power of politicians to dissolve parliament early with the power not to face their voters in an election.

“We are finding that some individuals are attempting to confuse the power of MP's to dissolve parliament early, under certain conditions, with the power to decide not to face the voters. In some circumstances it can be necessary for the national parliament to be dissolved and for members to go back to the people for a decision on who should lead the country. The constitution allows for this. It is a provision which could possibly have been used by MP's to solve the impasse we have faced for months. Instead of using this power they had, when huge numbers of Papua New Guineans were calling on them to use it and face the voters, we find people attempting to use the same provision to claim that the MPs have the power to delay the elections. This is, from our point of view, seriously wrong and should not be entertained for a moment.”