Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PNG speaker rapped for election statements


The Papua New Guinea arm of Transparency International has called on the the nation's parliamentary speaker to stop saying parliament has the power to suspend national elections.
Transparency International PNG says Speaker Jeffery Nape is misleading the people and MPs with incorrect interpretations of the PNG constitution published in the Port Moresby-based Post Courier Newspaper on Monday.
In a statement, Nape said Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen had no power to decide whether there should be an election and the matter was up to parliament.
"We are advised that it is clear that it is the Electoral Commission alone which has the power to advise the head of state to defer any part of the general elections," Transparency International PNG chairman Lawrence Stephens said in a statement.
"It is disappointing to find that the office of the speaker has apparently been advised otherwise.
"We are finding that some individuals are attempting to confuse the power of MPs to dissolve parliament early, under certain conditions, with the power to decide not to face the voters."
Stephens said it was in the nation's interest for the election to go ahead as scheduled.
However, he says there is a special provision in the constitution to dissolve parliament - but only to face the people for an election and not to suspend the poll.
"We find people attempting to use the same provision to claim that the MPs have the power to delay the elections," Stephens said.
 "This is, from our point of view, seriously wrong and should not be entertained for a moment."
The possibility of a delayed election was first raised in PNG's parliament in February, when it was revealed only 60% of the electoral roll was complete.
Australia has provided extra computers and staff to the PNG electoral commission to help it prepare the roll by the April 27 due date.
Both Trawen and Prime Minister Peter O'Neill have repeatedly stated the elections would go ahead on time.
However,  O'Neill's deputy, Belden Namah, says he want the election delayed, and in late February he said parliament would decide the matter when it resumes on March 20.
The 2012 election will be PNG's eighth since it gained independence from Australia in 1975.

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