Friday, January 20, 2012

Grand Chief: Barring MPs is dictatorial

BARRING members from entering parliament and threatening to arrest them is criminal and dictatorial, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare said yesterday, The National reports.
He said he was shocked to learn that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had threatened to order police to arrest him if he ventured near parliament again.
“This is the first time this has happened in 36 years of Independence,” Sir Michael said.
“Respect must be given to the house. No police has any right to stop me or any other member from entering the people’s parliament.”
He likened the presence of armed policemen at the entrances to parliament and the threats of arrest as a dictatorial act.
Nipa-Kutubu MP Philemon Embel agreed with Sir Michael.
“It is criminal to prevent an MP from performing his duties as a representative of the people,” he said.
Sir Michael said he went to parliament to serve the speaker the orders of the Supreme Court “since he seems unaware of it”.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), we went there to remind the speaker, who was an intervener, that there are explicit orders that he must comply with,’’ he said.
“Due notice was given to the speaker the previous day.
“He cannot tell us that he is unaware of the orders or that he does not understand anything.
“We have to be seen to do the right thing. We exercised our rights to enforce the orders.
“Now we want him (speaker) to grant us our seats on the government benches in parliament. O’Neill and his team can then use their numerical strength and section 145 of the Constitution to remove me. There is nothing wrong with that.”
That then is the Somare camp’s “way forward” from the political impasse that has had two camps claiming to be the legitimate government since the Supreme Court decision of Dec 12 which nullified O’Neill’s election on Aug 2.
The Somare group wanted Speaker Jeffrey Nape to grant them their seats on the government benches in parliament in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court and for the O’Neill group to then use its numerical strength to vote them out of office.
This suggestion mets with two obvious problems: Invoking section 145 means a motion of no confidence but the constitution forbids any such motions within 12 months of the general election, now a mere four months away.
Secondly, the speaker and the O’Neill camp are adamant that there is no vacancy in the government seating arrangements.
On his status as the regional member for East Sepik, Sir Michael said the court had reinstated him as MP. And, even if the O’Neill camp claimed to have removed him again, the process is not complete until it is declared so by the National Court, which alone has the powers to invalidate the membership of a member, he said.
That was confirmed by the Supreme Court decision (order No.3) which stated that the “National Court has exclusive jurisdiction as to whether the seat of a member has become vacant”.

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