PNG’s Autocracy Legalizes Puppetry of the Judiciary
In what can only be described as an added jab of malicious autocratic intent into the organs of democracy sustaining PNG, and a further parry in the ongoing political war between PNG’s executive and judiciary, the O’Namah government has once again, incredulously, taken one step further down a path of questionable return.
The new law effectively restricts the powers of the Supreme Court by preventing the court from halting laws until after constitutional challenges are heard, and is deemed to have come into operation on December 9, 2011.
Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah has acknowledged that the new law is a response by the majority O’Namah Government to the Supreme Court’s staying of the controversial Judicial Conduct Act 2012 which provided a constitutional change to the actual positioning of the judiciary in relation to the executive.
The Judicial Conduct Act also awarded new powers to the executive which provides the the possibility and opportunity for the executive to manage or interfere with the affairs of the judiciary.
It is difficult to determine for certain at this moment in time whether the Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill 2012 is a logical step (in the minds of the O’Namah Government) in the ongoing tit-for-tat battle with the judiciary in an attempt to retain control of government prior to the upcoming General Elections 2012; or alternatively, whether it is the latest ploy to maneuver the O’Namah Government into a much more sinister position – and dare I say it, down the path of totalitarian rule.
This latter viewpoint, although abominable, is indeed a common interpretation of O’Namah’s latest move by PNG’s growing online population, with one Twitter user making the following observation on the latest development:
#PNG Parliament intentionally provoking CIVIL UNREST so their wish for dictatorship can be granted on a golden plate?—
2012 PNG Elections (@2012pngelection) April 18, 2012
In addition, this perception was further fueled today by a chain-email which seemed to make it into most Papua New Guinean email accounts suggesting that the Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill 2012 was the third of five retrospective bills planned to be passed into law by O’Namah.
With the O’Namah Government having the parliamentary numbers available to enact new legislation, it is inevitable that the Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill 2012 will become law tomorrow when parliament resumes to entertain the bill’s third reading.
Although parliament’s endorsement of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Bill is indeed concerning, it is not an adequate enough signal in itself to raise the battle cry about the swinging of PNG’s system of government from parliamentary democracy to totalitarian rule.
The measuring stick for this possible dangerous temptation and transition will be the PNG General Election 2012.
It is now absolutely imperative that having the elections on time, as per the PNG Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen’s announcement (two months deferral), is adhered to.
This is PNG’s last measure of control – it is the Rubicon for PNG’s political system adequately filling all the criteria as to what can be classified as having the properties, or characteristics of, a political system which will be on par to that of a functioning full fledged dictatorship.
If indeed the ominous chain-email warning of two more retrospective bills, namely a Police Control Bill and a Media Control Bill, does become true, then the fire signaling a turn for the worse will be lit and its smoke will be visibly seen emanating from within the grisly walls of the Haus Tabaran.
It is difficult for me to comprehend even the possibility of Peter O’Neill going down this additional route – but the events of the past month have jilted my confidence, and those of many Papua New Guineans, in the political checks and balances we supposedly have.
(@Tavurvur) April 18, 2012
However, it would not be wise to totally discount the above warnings.
Although clearly deplorable, the continuous actions of the O’Namah Government to enact retrospective legislation with additional amendments, has so far remained tentatively acceptable within the boundaries of a democratic state.
Even additional movement on tightening control of police, depending on what this entails, should be equally tentatively acceptable.
But let me make it absolutely clear that any parliamentary movement on the perimeters of controlling both mainstream and social media, or any form of media for that matter; and any further parliamentary movement in postponing or shifting the PNG General Election 2012 date, with or without the PNG Electoral Commissioner’s consent, would be a positive indication that O’Namah has driven PNG outside the environs of a democratic state and has made a pact with the devil with the creation of a totalitarian administration.
This will be the moment where we can expect the international condemnation and isolation of PNG by our international partners.
These are apprehensive times for Papua New Guinea.