GOVERNOR-General Sir Paulias Matane has been “appointed” to a second term in office under very controversial circumstances in Parliament last Friday, in an act likely to be challenged in court, The National reports.
Parliament was a scene of chaos and confusion, with conflicting advice from the speaker and the prime minister as to how PNG’s 9th governor-general was to be appointed.
In an orchestrated move, the government succeeded in moving swiftly to appoint Sir Paulias, using section 87(5) of the Constitution, arguing that the absolute majority secured for Sir Paulias meant that the exhaustive secret ballot vote was not required.
Members who were supporting the other candidates were up in arms, and there were exchanges of shouts and abuses, bringing the whole Parliament House into a state of confusion.
The members watching from the public gallery, incensed by what they believe was an abuse of parliamentary democracy, shouted down the chambers resulting in an exchange of words between the public and MPs including Works, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Don Polye and Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu.
It all started after Speaker Jeffery Nape announced the names of the nominees – Sir Makena Geno, Sir Pato Kakaraya, Sir Paulias and Ronald Rimbao.
He then said since Sir Paulias was being proposed, section 87(5) of the Constitution required Parliament to determine by two-thirds absolute majority vote of 73 members the eligibility of Sir Paulias for re-appointment for a second term.
Members were surprised when Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare moved a motion for Parliament to resolve that Sir Paulias be supported for a second term as governor-general.
Confused, Enga Governor Peter Ipatas raised a point of order, asking the speaker to clarify the prime minister’s motion.
But the speaker, without clarifying, ordered the vote to proceed, even though Ipatas interjected again that the prime minister’s motion was not in line with the process the speaker had explained.
Other point of orders and interjections were rejected by the speaker.
The eligibility vote was taken by open ballot where MPs were required to stand up to vote, which resulted in an 84-13 in favour of Sir Paulias.
The speaker then informed Parliament that Sir Paulias was eligible for appointment as governor-general for a second term, prompting East Sepik Governor Peter Wararu to raise another point of order.
Wararu said there was confusion in what the speaker was saying, as section 87(5) was clear in that no person was eligible for appointment as governor-general more than once unless the Parliament, by an absolute two-thirds majority, approves the appointment for a second term.
Wararu said taking that into account, the speaker needed to make a ruling.
Nape suspended the sitting for lunch to make a ruling, taking into account Wararu’s point of order.
The speaker reconvened the House at 3pm and declared Sir Paulias as elected.
Polye was confused, and raised a point of order, asking Nape to clarify whether Sir Paulias was elected or became eligible to contest.
Nape stated that he was elected, drawing shouts from Morobe Governor Luther Wenge that “democracy has been hijacked”, and Ipatas, shouting, “why are you hijacking this House”.
Leader of government business Paul Tiensten adjourned Parliament to July 20.