Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kidu leads mounting criticisms of new law

OPPOSITION leader Dame Carol Kidu has criticised amendments to the Judicial Act, saying it is a knee-jerk legislation by the government to remove certain individuals from the bench, The National reports.
 The law, introduced on Tuesday and passed three times by a vote of 63-7 yesterday, gives parliament the power to refer a judge to the governor-general, who in turn must appoint a tribunal to investigate the judge, who would be suspended from duty.
She said the Constitution and an independent judiciary had been critical factors in holding more than 800 tribes together as a nation until now. 
“The fundamental principles of democracy are enshrined in our Constitution and the separation of powers is one of those fundamental principles.
“If a judge is thought to be out of line in his or her conduct, then certainly he or she should face the consequences as would any citizen but to put the parliament and NEC above the judiciary is completely unacceptable.”
Dame Carol said now there was a higher threshold of scrutiny for judges than for politicians – “one could question which of the two groups of people are trusted and respected more by the people of PNG”.
“To bring judges under the scrutiny of parliament and NEC when they are already under the scrutiny of the Ombudsman Commission will directly compromise the separation of powers as enshrined in our Constitution.
“From that point alone, this bill would surely be unconstitutional and should not have been entertained by parliament.
“There are processes already in place to remove people from public positions if their conduct is in question,” Dame Carol said.
She said parliament was the supreme legislator “but this does not make parliament or parliamentarians in themselves supreme”.
“The Constitution is supreme and if there are problems with the Constitution (as there are), then amend the Constitution don’t undermine it.
“I would challenge the government to now draft a Parliamentary Conduct Bill 2012 and let us have the judges scrutinise the conduct of parliamentarians according to a long list of criteria,” she said

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