Kilim Dai Tasol – Abusing Parliamentary Conventions & Constitutional Processes in PNG

When the swearing-in of Peter O’Neill as prime minister hit a snag yesterday due to Acting Governor-General Jeffery Nape unexpectedly suspending the ceremony, it was almost laughable to hear Nape’s justification:

“I will study the documents and then conduct the the ceremony. The swearing-in is suspended”.

Such a simple yet clear one-liner, hopefully uttered with the intention to adhere to PNG’s parliamentary conventions and constitutional processes, with the purpose of ensuring that everything was in order, was music to the ears.

Of course, we don’t know whether it was indeed Nape’s intention to follow due process, but to observe what could be the most important swearing-in PM ceremony of this parliamentary term (there have been a few – I count five), being unhinged by the most technical of reasons – particularly after witnessing the blatant disregard for due process by all political actors involved, including the Acting-GG, over the past 9 months – was nothing short but ironic in its purest sense.

Although it has been widely accepted within PNG that yesterday’s swearing-in of Peter O’Neill has ended the political impasse, there are some legal issues all associated with parliamentary conventions and constitutional processes which are still outstanding.

Perhaps the most questionable abuse of process thus far – or the most extreme – has been the recalling of parliament to sit after its prorogation.

Prorogation of a Parliament results in the termination of a parliamentary legislative session or term. Parliament then stands prorogued until the opening of the next session. Like the summoning and dissolution of Parliament, prorogation is a prerogative act of the Crown (via the Governor-General), taken on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to terminate business. Members are released from their parliamentary duties until Parliament is next summoned. All unfinished business is dropped and all committees lose their power to transact business, providing a fresh start for the next session.

No parliamentary committee can sit during a prorogation and parliament itself can not sit, unless recalled in a State of Emergency, which has clear parameters to abide by as per the Constitution.

And despite how O’Namah have framed it, a State of Emergency in the National Capital District can not be implemented, nor is it justified, by a so-called ‘threat’ posed by a Supreme Court judgement handed down by one of the three arms of government – the Judiciary; and the perception of rouge police.

Although I think it fair that Peter O’Neill and Belden Namah are taken to task for their abuse of parliamentary conventions and constitutional processes, the fact of the matter is that the current Executive have not initiated this practice. Sadly, this has been happening for some time.

On commenting on the practice championed by O’Namah earlier this year to use parliamentary majority to pass questionable retrospective laws to legitimize itself, Professor Ron May of the ANU observed that it seriously compromised the integrity of the government:

“Mind you, the slope was slippery even before August 2011 [when Somare used to] “adjourn parliament to avoid votes of no confidence, manipulate parliamentary processes and executive dominance, etc.

“Once politicians have seen they can do this, it will be hard to stop them in future, unless some strong leaders with integrity emerge from the election.”

It is extremely concerning that there seems to be a growing tendency for the Executive in power in the Haus Tambaran to trod over relevant parliamentary conventions and constitutional processes in order to accommodate favorable political outcomes.

There are reasons why we have such conventions and processes in place, and that is to keep in check the infringement of specific arms of government onto the rights of the people of PNG as an independent and democratic nation-state.

The more we simply ignore and/or twist these conventions and processes, the more likely we will unnecessarily run into more strife and trouble.

~ by Tavurvur on May 31, 2012.

One Response to “Kilim Dai Tasol – Abusing Parliamentary Conventions & Constitutional Processes in PNG”

  1. Another brilliant post Tavurvur! Thanks for the explanation of ‘prorogation’ too : )

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