PNG’s 9th Parliament to sit without Full Elected House
On Friday 27th July, on advice from caretaker Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the Speaker’s Office, Government House issued Notice G275 in the National Gazette advising that PNG’s 9th Parliament will sit for the first time this Friday, 3 August at 10am.
It is a requirement under PNG’s Constitution that the Parliament must meet not more than 7 days after the day fixed for the return of the writs for a general election.
The 9th Parliament’s first item of business will be the tabling of the writs in parliament whereby each elected Member shall make the Declaration of Office and Declarations of Loyalty as prescribed by the Constitution.
After this, the Parliament’s next formal item of business is to elect one of its Members to be the Speaker. Once this is achieved, whether by secret ballot (if there is more than one nomination) or not, the Parliament is then temporarily suspended while the Speaker is presented to and sworn in by the Governor-General.
Once this has been completed, the Speaker will return to the Haus Tambaran whereby the Parliament will proceed to elect a Prime Minister, or be adjourned (for up to three sitting days), before a motion for the election of a Prime Minister must be moved.
Although this sounds quite straight forward, it is very likely that the election of the Speaker and the election of a Prime Minister will go ahead without the participation of the country’s full 111 House of Representatives.
@Tavurvur isn't this a bit unfair to those yet to be declared?—
IIO (@IOlewale) July 31, 2012
It is very likely that a handful of Members representing the provincial seats of Western Highlands, Enga and NCD – and maybe even the Lagaip-Porgera Open seat, will all miss out on the first session of the 9th Parliament.
This unpleasant situation is a direct result of what has become the most drawn-out election in PNG history – with the date of the return of the writs already extended once (now due on Wednesday, 1 August) – and following in the style of the pre-election shenanigans surrounding the adjustments of the dates concerned with the issuing of the writs and those defining the traditional campaigning period.
Ironically, it is precisely because of the official extension of the date of the return of the writs – from Friday, July 27th to Wednesday, August 1st – that the Parliament will be able to sit without a full house.
Under Schedule 1.2 of the Constitution, the phrase “the day fixed for the return of the writs for a general election” is defined as meaning:
“(a) in the case of a general election where there is no extension of the time for the return of any writ or the time for the return of all writs is extended—the day by which the writs are to be returned; and,
(b) in any other case—the day by which the majority of the writs are to be returned.”
With 104 Members of Parliament declared, and only 7 to go, there is a clear majority in terms of the quantity of the writs to be returned before the Parliament sits on Friday, 3 August.
To accommodate this discrepancy, PNG Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen has officially extended the deadline for counting of votes by one week to Wednesday, August 8 – although the date of the return of the writs remains the same.
However, this constipated start to the new parliament has already raised the ire of those parties affected, and it is beginning to cast shadows upon PNG’s much needed luminous start to a new term of government, with the possibility of legal action halting parliament’s sitting already being mooted.
John Kerenga Gugl, Chairman and spokesman of the group dubbed the ‘Eastern Block Alliance’ or ‘Camp 3’ – which is trying to offer an alternative government to that of Peter O’Neill’s Alotau Camp and Belden Namah’s Kokopo Camp, has come out strong against the Governor-General’s decision:
“What about those mandated leaders who will be declared later after the formation of that government on Friday?
What is their position? What are they gonna do? They are not a second class citizen of this country. They are equal, they are the members.
We should respect these people. Why are they rushing? This is a constitutional crisis and it is not acceptable.”
This is not the ideal start to the 9th Parliament which Papua New Guineans were hoping for.
After the events of the past 12 months branded by the political dispute between Somare and O’Neill/Namah, which appears to be two-thirds resolved, the last thing PNG needs is ongoing uncertainty and the perception that instability still exists in the Parliament.
The source of this new uncertainty is not from its usual suspects though – the fault clearly lies with the over-extended period of time PNG Election 2012 has limped through. What is certain though is that the PNGEC will not amplify this uncertainty, that honor belongs to the usual suspects.