O’Dion to Repeal Judicial Conduct Act – But is this an Authentic Government?
In a move which supports the rhetoric that this government will be one of “reconciliation, unity and trust”, Governor General Sir Michael Ogio yesterday signaled a comprehensive legislative agenda which the O’Dion Government has set its sight on to tackle.
On top of the list is the repealing of the Judicial Conduct Act 2012, which caused massive protests in Port Moresby in April this year, as well as the Supreme Court Amendment Act, the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act, and the amendments made to the Prime Minister and NEC Act – which placed a restriction on the legal age of the occupant of the Office of the Prime Minister and was aimed at legitimizing the removal of Sir Michael Somare.
This domino collection of rushed pieces of legislation were all reactionary in nature, while most were retro-active, and were initiated with the intent of legitimizing an illegitimate government as judged by the Supreme Court.
As I wrote at the time, they were drafted, introduced and passed by the Parliament for all the wrong reasons – and quite frankly, were not only immature and abhorrent, but were an abuse of process and directly contradicted the spirit of the Constitution and the mandate given to our leaders by our people.
In acknowledging this difficult period of political stagnation, Governor General Sir Michael Ogio paid tribute to the people of PNG:
“We must now resolve to never repeat those difficult and challenging experiences. We must not put our people through that pain, fear and uncertainty ever again. Instead we must take action to instil confidence in our people.
They could have taken to the streets to express their anger as we so often see in many countries and egg on each other. But they did not, instead they displayed patience and understanding and they left the political events to take their own course. For this we need to thank our people because the outcome could have been very different.”
Although Peter O’Neill has kicked off the 9th Parliament with a bang – the reality always remained that if he wanted to be taken seriously as a leader of merit for PNG, he needed to repeal these pieces of legislation and make amends with the Chief Justice Sir Injia Salamo – on behalf of the judiciary.
Peter O’Neill has done that, and to his credit, has also rectified the hurt he caused Sir Michael Somare in terms of the Chief’s removal from the post of prime minister and then as a Member of the Parliament.
But questions still need to be answered before O’Dion can be accepted as being authentic.
Although the suggestion by the Governor General that parliament will also consider an Act of Indemnity to protect Peter O’Neill and current and former members of parliament as well external actors, regarding their actions pre-election – is somewhat acceptable – there are some issues which are clearly not.
Most notably, the recent calls by the Member for Henganofi, Hon Robert Atiyafa, to do away with all current leadership tribunals and commissions of inquiry has yet to be dealt with by the O’Dion Government.
In addition, the silent passing of the Maladina Amendments into law, which diminishes the independence, powers and effectiveness of the Ombudsman Commission and which has been vehemently opposed by community and NGO groups around PNG since its proposal in 2008, has covertly been slipped through the back door supported by Peter O’Neill prior to Election 2012.
These are key issues relevant to the accountability of our elected representatives which are integral to the principles of good governance and a parliament which acts in the national interest.
Although O’Neill’s push to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) must be applauded, for the O’Dion Government to indeed be seen as being authentic, the same rule must apply to parliamentarians – past, present and future.