Removal of cultural items from PNG Parliament ruled illegal

3:32 pm on 1 June 2016
Papua New Guinea parliament facade.

Papua New Guinea parliament facade. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The controversial removal of cultural objects from Papua New Guinea's Parliament building, by the Speaker, has been declared unlawful.

Nearly three years ago, Theo Zurenuoc claimed he had a mandate to remove what he called inappropriate cultural artefacts.

These included carved heads from above the entrance and a large totem structure inside parliament, which he planned to replace with a National Unity Pole containing a Bible and a copy of the constitution.

But the National Court declared the moves unlawful and unconstitutional.

The newspaper, The National, reported the court had given Mr Zurenuoc six months to repair, return or replace the 19 masks and the totem pole.

It also put a permanent restraint on Mr Zurenuoc, stopping him from further damaging and removing other cultural objects at Parliament House, unless such decisions were approved by the wider Parliament.

The court concluded the removed objects were protected under the National Cultural Property (Preservation) Act.

Justice Cannings, in his judgement, said Mr Zurenuoc's actions were motivated by his religious beliefs.

The front facade of Papua New Guinea's parliament featuring recently removed anthropomorphic carved heads on the front lintel.

The front facade of Papua New Guinea's parliament featuring recently removed anthropomorphic carved heads on the front lintel. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades