Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MPs shout down each other in chamber

PARLIAMENT witnessed another rowdy and aggressive session yesterday when members started shouting down each other when the speaker “disqualified” Paul Tiensten as member for Pomio, The National reports.
As parliament met for the November Budget session at 2.55pm, Speaker Jeffery Nape announced that Tiensten was no longer an MP because he had missed three consecutive parliament sittings – Aug 9, Sept 6 and Sept 20.
“Under section 104(2)(d) of the Constitution, I declare the seat of Pomio vacant,” he said.
Nape then called on the sergeant-at-arms to remove Tiensten, saying he was no longer the Pomio MP.
The decision angered non-government members who starting calling names and described the move as “cheap politics”.
Government backbenchers joined in the verbal abuse against the opposition.
Tiensten, who took the back seat of the middle bench, with a clenched fist responded in Tok Pisin: “Yupela kam rausim mi (you come and remove me) but no one, not even the sergeant-at-arms, attempted to eject him from the chamber.
Former attorney-general Sir Arnold Amet made a point of order that the speaker’s decision was a serious breach of the Constitution and that he had misapplied section 104(2)(d) to remove Tiensten.
He said a similar matter, relating to the ouster of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as East, Sepik MP, was still before the court and that Nape could be in contempt.
However, the speaker said Tiensten was not the East Sepik regional MP but the Pomio MP and the cases were separate, not part of the current proceeding by the East Sepik government.
“Tiensten is not the member for ESP regional. He is the member for Pomio and this is not your court house, sit down,” Nape told Sir Arnold, amid an uproar in the chamber.
When Tiensten refused to budge, Nape suspended parliament for 30 minutes until informed that the member had left the chamber. However, Tiensten walked back into the chamber, surprising Nape who immediately declared: “Under section 16 of the standing orders, I adjourn parliament to tomorrow 10am (today)”. He then walked out.
Sir Arnold called a media conference after the adjournment, saying that the anti-government bloc would take the matter to court today. He said they would be arguing that the issue of qualification and disqualification of members of parliament was the prerogative of the court and not the speaker or parliament.
Sir Arnold said they would file an urgent application to stop Tiensten from being disqualified and would also apply through the court to have Nape arrested for contempt.
The public gallery, which was filled with women in PNG colours, who came to show their support for the women’s 22 reserve seat proposed law, walked away annoyed.

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