Concern at decimation of PNG opposition
Papua New Guinea's Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates is concerned at the cross-floor movement in parliament that has left the opposition decimated to two members.
Papua New Guinea's Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates says he's concerned at the flow of opposition MPs defecting to government.
The opposition has been decimated to two MPs in the 111-seat parliament after another spate of defections to government.
Alphonse Gelu told Johnny Blades about his concerns:
ALPHONSE GELU: Papua New Guinea is a developing democracy and we want to have a vibrant legislature which basically includes both the government and opposition. But currently in PNG what is happening now is that the number of MPs in the opposition have depleted to an extent that we might be left with only one or two MPs left with the opposition, and the rest are with the government.
JOHNNY BLADES: Now the latest couple of defections include MPs who have had huge problems in securing district service improvement funds which we know are constitutionally allocated to every MP, but they all say that you practically have to pull teeth to get it (the funds) if you are in opposition.
AG: Well, definitely, and I think it's one of those things thatb are happening in PNG's democracy, especially with the parliament, over many years. The perception is that in order for you to have those funds you must be in government, and that is not a type of practice, a conventional practice that we want to encourage in a parliamentary democracy, because as members of parliament by law they are all entitled to any funding that is available. You don't have to be in government to be entitled to those funds. You can be in the opposition but still you have access to those funds. And I think, you know, a government must to an extent put a stop to this perception if we are really serious in PNG. If we are really serious about being a vibrant, parliamentary democracy, we must change this practice.
JB: Can the government machinery be held to account for delaying payments to districts?
AG: Yes, it's a very good question. In fact it happened in the past. The late Bernard Narokobi in fact took the matter to court. But the decision of the court doesn't seem to have worked in this case. Consecutive governments continue to use this tactic in luring members of parliament from the other side. So it is something that we need to change. We need to change this practice. It is no longer a perception. It is a common practice that is used and I think from the political level down to the bureaucratic level, the bureaucracy that is responsible for the disbursement of these funds should not hold any members of parliament to ransom by not disbursing those funds. The bureaucratic level must make sure that all MPs, based on certain conditions in which they need to acquit the previous year's funding... as soon as they do that, they should be given this year's funding without any delays or question.
Alphonse Gelu adds that the Registry has proposed a new Organic Law that would stem the flow of defections of MPs from opposition to government.
However, it remains to be seen whether MPs will agree to it.
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