PNG warned of danger in tiny parliamentary opposition
Transparency International's PNG chapter speaks out about tiny opposition in parliament.
A corruption watchdog in Papua New Guinea says it is very concerned that the parliamentary opposition has been reduced to just three members from among the 111 MPs.
PNG oppositions have been becoming ever smaller over the past ten years as governments have used their power, and control of the purse strings, to induce MPs to join them.
Transparency PNG's chairman, Lawrence Stephens, told Don Wiseman it is vital there is a strong opposition as a counter to governments.
LAWRENCE STEPHENS:The, you know, Westminster system of Parliament, one expects to have a a sizeable government and one expects to have her majesty's loyal opposition offering alternate views, to what the government might be thinking about, challenging the government, making the government accountable to the people as much as possible and providing views or opportunities for us, to have different ways of doing things. And when you end up with only two in the opposition, it begins to look a little bit ludicrous and we would be far more comfortable if the numbers were larger. Particularly, when what appears to happen after an election is that, you have quite a sizeable opposition and you have the government with the majority. Now, then things change and bit by bit, there is a leakage across to the government benches and you hear suggestions from members of parliament, that they have done this, because that is their only way to secure the funds that they are entitled to, as representatives of their people. That is a challenge.
DON WISEMAN: We don't know that, we have got to take their word for it that, that is the case?
LS: That is what they tell us, that this is the case and in many cases, the people sound as if they are speaking very factually. We do hear denials of that, we do hear, and this is not just under the current government either, this has been going on for sometime. We do hear that, it is just bureaucratic issues or other reasons why people have not got it. But the implication appears to be, that you move, you get your rights and if that is the case, then it would have to be, very much a problem, for anybody watching corruption taking place.
DW: So it comes back to this issue of the lack of space, between the people making the decisions and the money itself?
LS: Yep, and the apparently deliberate use of control of the Treasury, to bring people to the side of government and if that were the case and if it were to be proven, to be the case, then you get the impression, that law enforcement authorities need to look more closely, at what is actually going on there. Because it begins to sound like an inducement, to sit in a certain part of the Parliament.
DW: You say that Transparency is concerned about it. What are you doing about it?
LS: Constantly speaking about it. Taking opportunities, both inside Papua New Guinea and outside Papua New Guinea, to express concern. Encouraging the elected officials and appointed officials, to realise, that an elected representative has certain rights, wherever he or she sits in the Parliament. And they should not be undermined, in anyway, by political decisions on whether they are going to receive their rights or not. The rights should be there, no matter where they sit in Parliament.
DW: What is the feeling amongst the general population, about what is going on here?
LS: Those that I have discussed it with; fairly cynical about what is going on, fairly resigned to, "this is the reality that we live with". Some particularly angry, but many act as if, " well what can we do about it?". So on the other side of that we keep encouraging them; now you can do something, you can speak up, you can point out what is right. Just dont give in, keep pointing out that we can do better than this.
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