PNG government called on to consult on constitutional changes
Watchdog group raises concerns at the haste and lack of consultation over recent constitutional changes in Papua New Guinea.
The anti-corruption group, Transparency International Papua New Guinea, says it is very concerned with the manner of recent constitutional changes by the government.
The Peter O'Neill government is easily able to make such changes because almost all MPs are members of his coalition.
In recent weeks they have restricted the opportunities for the opposition to bring votes of no confidence and cut the number of required sitting days for parliament.
TIPNG's executive director Lawrence Stephens says the government has ignored the country's traditional consultative approach on any constitutional changes. He spoke to Don Wiseman.
LAWRENCE STEPHENS: The reality is, in the name of stability, we've had a series of laws and a series of constitutional changes pushed through without, from our point of view, adequate consultation with the community and adequate thought by parliament.
DON WISEMAN: What sort of consultation should there have been?
LS: When the constitution was drawn up very extensive visits were made around the country, talking to the people, hearing what the people were saying about what was required, and talking to international experts, talking to all sorts of people. There were extensive records kept of those discussions, and then the actual constitution came out of that. When it comes to changing the constitution and particularly something as dramatic as votes of no-confidence we would expect there to be widespread discussion and not this fast, almost hidden approach to pushing legislation through. They used the term 'in the interests of stability', they used another term, another description, that the parliament did not exercise its responsibility properly when it came to the power to pass votes of no-confidence and that this led to instability. But our concern is that the response was not to change the behaviour of members of parliament so the started to behave responsibly when it came to presenting votes of no-confidence, but removing this power, this right, from the parliamentarians - a vote of no-confidence in themselves, if you like, giving up that power which has a very important place in any parliament, really, but in the parliament of Papua New Guinea.
DW: Among those politicians who voted for this were a number of people who have been involved going back many, many years. And they all supported it in varying ways.
LS: The same people would have been, firstly, on the receiving end of the constant misuse of the power of putting a no-confidence motion up. So they would have been, themselves, frustrated by that. But, again, the response is not good, the response from our point of view is sort of a slash-and-burn response. 'We don't behave well so therefore we won't have the power'. And that shouldn't have been the case. What should be happening is that parliamentarians should be thinking through the powers that they have, the overall welfare of Papua New Guinea, and presenting votes of no-confidence for legitimate reasons, not just for quick-fix situations where they simply want to get more power or change the power base.
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