By Oseah Philemon
THE current National Parliament is the “worst” Papua New Guinea has had in the last 20 years, Lae MP and deputy opposition leader Bart Philemon said yesterday.
Speaking in support of former prime minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, who said the people have lost faith in PNG’s parliamentary democracy, Mr Philemon said parliament has lost its credibility and integrity because the present government has treated it with absolute contempt and disrespect.
Mr Philemon said despite the Supreme Court affirmation that confirmed parliament must sit for nine weeks in a year or 63 days, the Somare government has failed to uphold that constitutional requirement.
Mr Philemon said from August 2007 when the eighth Parliament started to July 2008 the National Parliament sat for only 49 days out of the required 63 days. Then from July 2008 to July 2009 the House sat for 31 days out of 63 required by the Constitution. Mr Philemon said from July 2009 to July 2010 Parliament sat for 31 days of out the 63 required by law. Then from July 2010 up until March 2011 the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea sat for only five days. The next sitting is in May.
Mr Philemon added that whenever the House sits, proceedings are abruptly interrupted and adjourned because the government is scared of losing office through a no confidence vote.
The government is using its superior numerical strength with arrogance and manipulating the parliamentary system to suit its own selfish agenda that makes it unaccountable, non-transparent and a law unto itself.
There are no proper debates on any major issue, legislations are bulldozed through using the superior numbers on the other side and the government is simply not accountable for any of its actions.
That is why I say in my last 19 years as a Member of Parliament I can say without hesitation that the standard and performance of this 8th National Parliament is the lowest I have ever seen.
There is no parliamentary democracy when the executive government simply functions like a dictatorship.
There are many major issues that Parliament has failed to deal with and could force the nation into crisis in the near future. We have not sorted out the electoral boundaries for a nation that has grown from three million to six million people. Our people are under-represented in Parliament because Parliament has not adopted any of the reports of the Electoral Boundaries Commission since Independence. Now we have two new provinces – Hela and Jiwaka, and we have no report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission on both of them. Then we have the 22 new women’s seats and we have no report from the Electoral Boundaries Commission on them. These are extremely serious issues and the executive government has simply failed to ensure Parliament dealt with them. Of course when you look at the Somare government’s own performance you know where the nation is heading – down the gutters. The many controversies we have gone through like the appointment of the new governor-general …… a simple matter was completely stuffed up by the Government. The quality of legal advice is non-existent.
Mr Philemon said because of poor political leadership at executive government level and a non-functioning parliament, the public service has become ineffective, incompetent, non-performing and has lost direction.
We have a public service that is eating up K2 billion of the nation budget and yet it is not performing. It has become unproductive. The salaries and personal emoluments bill for the public service is K2 billion which is 29 per cent of the total national budget compared to education which is only three per cent and health which is five per cent and general goods and services 17 per cent. The priority areas of health, education, agriculture, law and order are simply underfunded.
Mr Philemon said in order for PNG to move forward the 109 MPs in Parliament must demonstrate strong and effective political leadership.
This then transcends to the public service which can become productive, efficient and accountable to the people of Papua New Guinea. How can the Government fix the public service when it cannot even fix itself. Corruption has crept in because of poor political leadership and that is a very serious emerging issue for this country.