By JEFFREY ELAPA
THE parliament has voted to return the provincial electoral seats during the 2012 general election with the blessing of 73 MPs yesterday, The National reports.
Parliament had decided a few years ago that all provincial seats were to be abolished by 2012 and to increase the open seats to 120 from 89 but parliament yesterday unanimously voted to keep all provincial seats when the bill went through the second reading.
The final reading is expected after two months and this might bring more debates in parliament.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said it was an important bill as the constitutional amendment would ensure that provincial electorates were permanently re-instated.
He said by committing the bill and holding two separate votes, parliament changed the commencement date of the constitutional amendment.
He said instead of provincial electorates been removed at the 2007 election, they would be removed when advised by the prime minister and by recommitting the law, a constitutional crisis was avoided.
However, he said the job of returning provincial electorates was not yet complete and in order to finish the job, parliament needed to pass the amendment. Only after the passage of the law, will the law be returned to its original format and provincial electorates will be permanently reinstated.
He said provincial government served an important function in the decentralised system and that the provincial government system allowed rural people to become involved in decision-making.
O'Neill said the effect of the amendment was to reinstate all references to provincial electorates back into the constitution and ensure the constitution was the same way our founding fathers had intended.
The parliament also passed the 2015 South Pacific games Bill which will establish the 2015 Pacific Games authority to oversee and prepare for the games. The games is expected to cost around K300 million.