Tuesday, May 08, 2012

PNG is stable, O'Neill tells UN


Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has rejected claims by the United Nations his government threatens the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
In a statement directed at UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay, Mr O'Neill said PNG was now secure from political instability.
Ms Pillay issued a warning from Geneva two weeks ago against laws passed by the O'Neill government since it took power on August 2, including the recently implemented Judicial Conduct Act, which gives parliament the power to suspend judges.
Mr O'Neill said he had directed an inter-departmental committee to formally assess the allegations to "ensure the UN Special Rapporteur is provided a brief to assist her [to] understand the PNG political context in which the actions of my government are taken", he said.

O'Neill...refutes UN claims

He said the inter-departmental committee will provide the government's response on any breaches or interferences that may have occurred against the UN's charter on the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.
Ms Pillay also warned PNG risked sliding towards lawlessness after a reporter was threatened and another attacked in Port Moresby in recent months.
Mr O'Neill denied there was any move to stomp on free speech in PNG, and that a recent debate on press bias in parliament had more to with standards of reporting than gagging free speech.
"PNG continues to enjoy freedom of speech as provided under the constitution," he said.
"The recent debate by PNG government and parliament on free speech with regards to reporting by journalists addresses the substantive issue of factual and unbiased reporting rather than curtailing free speech."
In February, Mr O'Neill's chief of staff, Ben Micah, took out ads in the daily newspapers vowing those who spread "malicious and misleading" information would be "dealt with".
At a subsequent press conference, Mr O'Neill denied his government had any plans to gag free speech, while Mr Micah, in a rare interjection during O'Neill's usually tightly run press conferences, said the statement was aimed at people spreading false rumours of military coups.
"This is not a Stalinist regime," Mr Micah said at the time.
"We will be using normal government apparatus to monitor policy information."
Immediately after passing the Judicial Conduct Act into law in February, the government used it to suspend Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justice Nicholas Kerriwom, both of whom are sitting on new hearings into the government's legitimacy.
Chief Justice Sir Salamo is accused of interfering in the handling of the estate of the late Justice Timothy Hinchcliffe, and redirecting money owed to his deceased colleague's family into court coffers.
The court has put a permanent stay on his case.
The government also want him gone, having accused him of bias since last year's constitutional court case to decide who was the nation's PM.
The court - headed by Justice Sir Salamo - ruled 3 to 2 on December 12 in favour of dumped prime minister Sir Michael Somare, who lost office to Mr O'Neill in a surprise parliamentary vote on August 2.
That decision, and the majority of parliament's refusal to back away from the decision to install Mr O'Neill, culminated in a failed mutiny by

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