Appointing Women to Parliament

By Emmanuel Narokobi

Got this email below today. I totally agree with the sentiments expressed below. Have a read and let us know what you think? Certainly a good opportunity also to take a poll on this:

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Appointing women to Parliament: By David Kitchnoge, Port Moresby.

For some reason, the proposed appointment of women to parliament does not sound right. In my opinion, this will have to be one of the most undemocratic things to ever occur in our country. I mean where do the appointees get their mandate to rule? It is common knowledge that any appointee to parliament, regardless of who that person is, does not have the primary mandate of the people and, therefore, can not legislate or govern on their behalf.

The only way this could work is to severely restrict the rights of the appointees so that they do not have the same parliamentary rights and privileges of an elected member.

They must have no voting rights on all parliamentary votes and they must not hold any parliamentary and governance positions. Their role would only be to actively take part in parliamentary debates to try and get the elected members to vote in a particular way in order to achieve a certain outcome, but they can never vote themselves: basically playing the role of ensuring the voice of women is heard in the highest decision making body on the land.

I acknowledge that it is a pretty difficult ask given our cultural realities but women need to earn their status in society. We already have women leaders outside parliament occupying very important positions in business, the public service and the academe. This is no mean feat for a country where power and leadership have traditionally been vested in the men folk. Our country is going through a process of cultural evolution as we speak and it will only be a matter of time before we have more elected women in parliament. As with most other development agendas,
education is the key here. Don’t get me wrong, I am not disputing the fact that we need more women perspectives in our decision making processes but women must earn the right to be heard.

My other concern is that the appointment process of top civil servants is already heavily politicised and arguably corrupt enough as it is, and there is no guarantee that the same will not occur in this case. There is a real possibility that political cronies may be appointed to parliament, thereby, defeating whatever the initial intention may be. The last thing we want to see come out of this is a bunch of vulnerable and lame duck appointees exposed to political manipulation to serve the interests of the ultimate appointing authorities who would be their colleague elected members of parliament.

If the proposed appointment to parliament of women is envisaged on the basis of giving a minority grouping in society a fair go, then it is terribly flawed because where do you stop? There are many more minority groupings in our society such as the youth, homosexuals, the colored etc than just women. In fact, we are essentially a country of more than 800 minority groups of tribes pulled together into nationhood on 16 September 1975.

The only advantage I can see in this proposition is that issues of national importance can be addressed in an all inclusive manner through the input in parliamentary debates by the additional women representatives. But there are already ways in which women, and other citizens for that matter, can get involved and have their voices be heard without having to enter parliament.

Lastly, I understand that the constitution does allow for the appointment of women to parliament. If it is true, then I would like to humbly question the wisdom of the constitution with regards to this issue as I believe it clashes with the democratic ideal of government by the people.

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45 thoughts on “Appointing Women to Parliament

  1. With respect to our womenfolk I don’t think Parliament is the right avenue for pursuing gender equality in political representation. It defeats the purpose of democratic representation and lacks the people’s mandate to govern as political representatives. I also share the same sentiments as the writer.

  2. Firstly, irrespective of the ideals people proposed about democracy and representation, where has it led us in the last 40 years? Males using thuggery and violence into the National Legislature, is that democratic? The incumbents running election campaigns with millions of kina at their disposal – leisurely hiring choppers to campaign in the most disparate parts of the electorates, whilst the less-resourced struggle to even get out of their strong-holds, is this democratic?

    Though the merits of democratic representation is pushed, why can’t we be innovative for a change? The National Goals and Directive Principles (#5) hints at the use of PNG and home-grown initiatives and innovations to deal with the changes we face as a nation. At the national level of politics, I believe this includes finding practical measure to address the issue of women participation in the arenas of decision-making. New Ireland as a matrilineal society can invoke this to incorporate female participation in the provincial government, but it seriously needs unselfish leaders who have pride in their identity.

    Secondly, the actual worth of women must be considered as per their contributions to the development of the country. Women have always propped up the economy through the most inconspicuous and underrated work they perform. Much of this is not accounted for in the formal economic indicators of the country. From child rearing, to domestic housekeeping and every chore that supports the household, the economy of PNG thrives. A World Bank study in the late 1990s also showed that women were the more productive in the agricultural sector, much of which was not reflected in the wage structure of the country.

    Based on the practical realities of what is witnessed in Scandinavian and southern African countries, the long term benefits of women in parliament far outweighs the trivial issues raised by Barata Roma. Experiences show that social sectors get more emphasis under the leadership of women. A viable human infrastructure supports any sustainable economy, as the history of capitalism indicates.

    As a side note, I have been following the leadership progression of Dame Kidu since 1997 and am amazed by how a female politician can even advocate for the most radical changes in recent decades. Isn’t it a coincidence that within her tenure of the Community Development Ministry, major social development initiatives have been put on the national agenda for development? She even fought for her Department to be included in the NEC, gaining “central agency” status in the last term of parliament, changing the stereotypical associations that the Department has been renowned for since Independence! Would a male politician put the same time, commitment and not suffer the humiliation of one’s macho dignity to fight for some of the most radical changes in the social development issues affecting the country? Birth and citizenship registration as never been more decentralised and the list of policy matters that are in the pipeline are more progressive than anytime in PNG’s history! And what has been the common denominator in all these changes? How much more can PNG fare if other nominated members of parliament are given the opportunity to show their innovativeness?

    Thirdly, others argue that equality is earned through struggle. But doesn’t life in PNG by the ordinary PNG woman constitute a “struggle” against inequality and domination. Look at the high cases of sex crimes committed against women, the high maternal mortality rate, and the susceptibility of HIV infection of women by unfaithful spouses, and the list goes on.

    Invocation of section 102 is not charity, rather recognition that women are best positioned to declare the issues that affect them in the country. Which male politician is currently advocating against the issue of domestic violence in PNG? If that is any indicator, than let the process take its cause for women nominate members.

  3. Firstly, I sympathise with the plight of our womenfolk and their struggles but don’t we already have the National Council of Women (NCW) and the Department of Community Development that are tasked with addressing women’s issues which also implictly represent the womenfolk at the political arena?

    We should note that a major obstacle to furthering women’s issues is because of the political infighting among women in the women organizations. Women are no different political beings from their male counterparts and have the same political aspirations and ambitions let alone failings.

    I recall during a review of the recent national elections one of PNG’s political experts mentioned that even though the LPV system grants women candidates a better position of winning than the FPTP system the findings of the study showed that women are still not voting for women candidates. And that is happening also in matrilineal societies. Why is this so?

    Forgive me for my ignorance but can someone enlighten us on what exactly is the underlying motive of the proposed Bill on the appointment of women into parliament?

    Also what specific benefits will the appointment of women to parliament bring to the nation?

    I believe the appointment of women can be justified if their participation as women political representatives will bring a significant change to the wellbeing of Papua New Guineans.

    Otherwise, it is just a duplication of the role of the Minister for Community Development and an added expense to fund replicated portfolios.

    Em tingting blong mi tasol.

  4. wow. m.

    I am a little concerned that you ‘totally’ agree with what was written in that email:

    “women need to earn their status”
    “women must earn their right to be heard”

    WHATEVER else the author had to say, those 2 sentences are extremely revealing – it’s exactly the condescending patronising tone of these statements that reflect a very real, very paralysing undercurrent in our society – MEN MEN MEN have SO much more to gain if they dominate women in public and private spaces. Domestic, social and cultural violence (which is one thing men predominantly create, maintain and sustain in PNG/Melanesia) is one way in which this is done … but much more subtly and much more dangerous (to my mind) is this silent killer – a deep underlying prejudice against women that shows itself every day in common language/communication. ‘women need to do this …’ ‘women need to do that … ‘ before they can sit at the same table as men. INSTEAD why don’t we start off our sentences with ‘men need to STOP doing this …’ ‘men need to STOP doing that …’. Using words which place the onus on women to DO something in a society where they are effectively bound and gagged in (especially in public office), is, to me, deeply frustrating and goes to the very heart of the problem.

    And a great deal of the problem, as I see it, is that we live in a society where men occupy public space – a society which is constantly perpetuating the value system that a girl’s education is worth less than a boy’s, perpetuating the value system that what a girl has to say isn’t as valuable as what a boy has to demonstrate; perpetuating a system where a girl’s opinion, desires, dreams, ideas, are somehow subjugated to a greater whole whereas a boy is encouraged, taken seriously, supported and funded as an individual with individual rights … and then labeling it the ‘Melanesian Way”. Please. Please don’t insult the intelligence of every single women in this country.

    And btw, women constitute 52% of the population – that’s the MAJORITY, not the minority – men are the minority in this country.

    I don’t want to just be negative about what was said in the article. Personally I have a LOT of trouble with mandating women (or any party – minority or majority) into a democratically elected parliament ad I have had this conversation countless times in Port Moresby.

    BUT but but but. I am starting to come around:

    1. I believe in democracy but I do not believe that we have a functionally operational democratic system of government. I believe our ‘democracy’ is a shambles. It is another kind of beast that serves a purpose – to dominate and to subjugate, to rule and not to lead, to take and not to give, to divest and not to invest.
    2. I do not believe there is a level playing field in either getting elected to or holding office in our parliament. And using words like “women need to earn …” are only appropriate where women have the space/opportunity to at least even attempt to “earn” a place. And right now they definitely do not.
    3. I believe the best predictor of future action is PAST action. I do not believe that our country will be better off if we wait for the system to somehow change organically to create a better balance of gender in parliament and I believe that if we do wait it could take more than 20 years before more women (not a majority – just more than 1 woman), before more women get elected into parliament.
    4. I believe that the elections are the most heavily manipulated and orchestrated form of male dominance in our country and almost every single thing about the way they are performed in public and in private is designed to keep the powerful powerful and the voiceless voiceless … and in this country women and children are voiceless, they remain undefended, they’re roles are reduced to symbols of wealth and warrant – even though the reality is that if women didn’t get out of bed every single day and CARRY this nation then everything we have resembling a social structure that actually works, would dissolve.
    5. I believe that when you educate a man you educate 1 person but when you educate a women you educate a family and therefore that when a woman is given a voice, she speaks for those who have no other way to be heard – her sisters and their children.
    6. I believe that women in power in this country are successful by MERIT most of the time. I believe men in power in this country are NOT successful by merit most of the time.

    I am not anti-Melanesian men. I am anti using ancient cultural constructs to prop up a modern advantage deeply in favour of ‘big men’ and intended to exclude all others. I am anti people thinking things will change without doing anything to change them – especially the people in power – which are mostly men.

    To add to what Kavologist has said, let’s look further afield. Several nations in Africa (including South Africa) have mandated women into parliament – doing this changed the whole scope of that nation’s governing body – to greater effect. And after the mandate, social understandign and values shifted so that women could start to campaign and stand for office in the same way as any other eligible candidate in those countries … because the mandate opened a door that for so long was seen as deadbolted.

    If we truly believe in a liberal and democratic society then surely we must know that what we have now is far from this ideal. When the playing field is level and a person is judged on their merits alone and on NOT on their gender, NOT on their tribe, NOT on their family, NOT on their false promises, NOT on their wealth, NOT on their promises of wealth. When that level playing field is there, then talk to me of women ‘earning’ their right. Until then, as a MAN in this country it would pay to think very carefully about what you say when you say it. Words reflect a GREAT deal about belief and if you believe that the onus is on ‘women’ in this country to Get Up and start ‘earning’ their place amongst men, then you’re participating a very Melanesian Male Ritual and when I hear you beating your wife over the fence and when I see you eating first before women and children and when I see you ‘earning’ your right to represent me, to speak for me, to rule me, to master my land, to take what was given in trust … then I know its all part of the same story.

    And I just want that story to change. It is SO time for a new story.

    In a country where women are SEVERELY disadvantaged in almost EVERY single way … in health, in education, in the workplace (formal and informal) and in having a public voice … I think providing women with a mandate for the next couple of elections is one important tool we can use to try to shift the scales a bit more. Because right now listening to a man try to tell me to ‘earn’ my right to sit at his side is Just Not Good Enough. WAKE UP PLEASE. We are a country in a moral CRISIS. I almost don’t care why or how we got here – what is done is done – we need to look to the FUTURE as a nation and for that to happen, something has GOT to change and if that means we need to bend the rules of democracy … we’re already pretty adept at doing that in any event.

    Over and out.

  5. Just a rebuttal to Solo:

    “Department of Community Development that are tasked with addressing women’s issues which also implictly represent the womenfolk at the political arena?”…….this is just the same tired stereotypical assumptions that the Department of Community Development is associated with and what Dame Carol is trying to get the Department out of. The thinking that the Dept. of Community Development ‘is just a women and children’s welfare agency’ has been the mindset of male political leaders since Independence. It may look trival this point I raise but it sort of explains how issues that are fundamentally the building blocks of society seem to take lesser importance and associated with the percieved “homely” characteristics of the female gender!

    As to the LPV and its role in facilitating females being voted into parliament I’d say it is virtually a joke! For favourable outcomes for females in future, the use of the LPV could best be complemented if political parties are mandated to have a definite quota for female candidates endorsed by political parties under an ammended OLIPPAC. Though the OLIPPAC, especially s. 62 gives incentives to political parties to endorse female candidates, by now the many male-dominated political party executives harbour the obvious conclusions that women have less chances of winning the votes. So this defeatist and almost disempowering attitude translates into the cautious manner political parties commit to endorsing and funding female candidates.

    As to the actual evidence of the LPV in women’s success in the elections, the statistics will attest to what I will say next. The 2007 elections saw over 50% of the incumbents retain their seats in the national legislature! This is unprecedented in the electoral politics of this country. Why was this possible? Simply, the incumbents had the resources, courteousy of their access to public office in the last parliament to put up very good campaigns and pork-barrelling their way in the elections!! We now have a voting system that requires the more resourceful candidates. I remember a female candidate in one of the Madang open electorates literally printing out her campaign posters from her printer from home because she could not afford to pay for the expensive rates that printing companies charged for their services. On the other hand, we had the former Forest Minister chartering a private helicopter (I don’t know the rate they charge per hour for these things?) to campaign in the most isolated part of his electorate! In this instant, one can deduce who has the upper-hand in the outcome of the elections with the use of the LPV!

    And for women voters not voting other female candidates, that is indeed a challenge. But also consider this. There is pressure and indimidation evident. The undue influence that money and tribal/marital coercion entails should not be ruled out. I won’t even be suprise that the perpetuation and sustained reinforcement of the so-called “Melanesian” ideology that women belong in the house and kitchen has pervaded even the whole psyche of PNG womenfolk, hence, their predictable voting patterns. I can only observe that when men (and women) start preaching positive messages about the inherently capable leadership nature of women can reversing the self-denigrating mindset be translated in the voting patterns.

    The performance of women candidates in the matrilineal system is even one interesting phenomenon and it also may be put on the explanation above. But also, the patronage system of the present political system is to be blamed. The males who dominate the national legislature have direct access to the District level administration and the whole system is tinged with their influence. It is laughable too that in matrilineal systems we have some of the most illiterate politicians who have no appreciation and knowledge of their heritage. If there was an unselfish political leader from one of these provinces or societies, perhaps the realisation of the intentions of the National Goals and Directive Principle 5 can be true if such leaders push for women representation in the provincial legislature! These so-called male, national legislators are just not interested in investigating the options because they are just concerned about themselves.

    Finally, the invocation of s. 102 is just a temporary measure. It is just for the duration of this term of parliament. The obvious benefit would be the advocacy role that women leaders bring onto the floor of parliament. It also offers the check and balance and critical discussions that is seriously needed in the parliament. Although some question the fairness of the selection process, and whether the nominated women candidates would be politically answerable to the ruling government have been raised, it is the preliminary duties of political awareness of national developments that affect women that matters, leading into the 2012 national elections. Nominated women MPS can therefore play that critical role of political education and awareness or mobilization that has been missing in the years leading into national elections. Already we are seeing some insecure male politician bracing themselves to frustrate the process, knowing full well that their comfortable nests will be rocked. Such is the role of reforms of this nature where status quos, hitherto facilitating of deceit will only be exposed.

  6. PS my little rave above was to express my view that mandating women into parliament is an idea we need to entertain very strongly.

    I don’t think the possibility that those roles can be corrupted is sufficient of a deterrant not to mandate women into public office. However, I very much agree with the email author when he warns us about the practicalities – that due to corruption and manipulation in high places ‘lame duck’ appointees is a very real danger.

    Whatever method is proposed to implement the mandate, clearly it must be scrutinised. This is vital for credibility and effectiveness.

    The good news is it has successfully been done before and we can look to our African counterparts for the methodologies and find and adapt or create something that suits our needs.

    And to Solo – re the National Council of Women – I’d love to address the query above but I don’t know enough about it. I have some experience with some aspects of that organisation and they haven’t been all that positive or encouraging. That aside, having the NCOW is a very different proposition and serves very different purpose to having women in parliament and having one does not negate the need for the other. NCOW generally has a role of representing women and giving them a voice where they otherwise may not have one. A woman in parliament is going to represent her constituents – men, women and children – not to promote womens interests – unless she has an official role that requires her to do so.

    In regards to your other comment about women in power being ‘no better’ than men in power – that may very well be the case. It could be true that once women in PNG take public office their terms will produce the same problems as their male predecessors – however this remains to be seen. But we have a fundamental problem – we may never in our lifetimes see a PNG where women are in office and truly have the opportunity to either ‘be better’ or to be ‘no better’ than their contemporaries. And that’s what is the crux of the whole issue. In my view. You can’t predict how a woman in parliament will act until we have more women in parliament. It seems to me that the qualities you describe belong to both men and women – maybe corruption and in-fights and self-aggrandizement are some of our worst socio-cultural traits – something that runs across the board – but its not a reason that women should have the same opportunity to represent their fellow citizens. Apply the same logic to our male leaders and you’ll probably be left with less than a dozen decent people standing. The whole point is to elect leaders based on their merits, not their big words and small promises – whether men or women.

    Why aren’t women voting women into parliament? Women in this country don’t exist in a vacuum. When you are brought up to subjugate your intelligence emotions opinions desires to those belonging to men – by virtue of their sex alone and no other quality – you start to believe and accept that that is your ‘place’, to accept that role, to walk quietly and make things happen around the main stage where men congregate.on top of all of that is the very real Melanesian cultural trait of deference. You can’t just snap your fingers and undo the last 70 years of systemic formalising of the separation of powers between men and women – one of the primary reasons a mandate such as this will be so powerful is because women will (for the first time in this country) see women in the highest offices, will see their capabilities, will see that women and men shouldn’t be distinguished by their sex but by their effectiveness. Hopefully a mandate like this will help women to also free their own minds from a common and erroenous understanding to date that their primary roles are purely supportive ones.

    As for saying women should only be mandated into parliament if they can show they will make a positive change – I think that’s missing the fundamental point. Our society is deeply imbalanced. A large part of that is because oue elected leaders are more than 99% men. We need women in parliament to address the imbalance – to give other sectors of society a voice. THAT is what a democracy is – not this heavily manipulated dynastic boys club sitting in a traditional Sepik man’s house in the heart of the capital.

    Don’t apply that standard to women alone – apply it to everyone. That’s the point of this entire exercise – level the field. Women don’t need to provide positive proof just to get in the door – especially in light of a 34 year regime where have a majority male presence in parliament has proven time and time again that that model just doesn’t work for the majority of constituents. You can’t deny women access because you want them to prove that they can fix the problems that (mostly) men have created.

    Ting ting bilong mi tasol.

  7. I’m glad to see that this topic has generated so much discussion on this blog.

    Let me make my position clear, in no way shape or form do I support the appointing of women to parliament.

    I can see where me and kavaologist are coming from, but I firmly believe that in this country the process is open to abuse. The shortlist of 6 women candidates submitted to parliament for a final vote on the 3 representatives was formulated by the National Council of Women and other “womens groups”. Who do these groups actually represent?

    The mous warra failed politicians in Port Moresby, that’s who!

    This process simply replaces the male thugs in parliament, with people that speak the same language as them, and are just as oblivious to the “real issues” affecting the rural masses as they are.

    We should be more concerned about educating our children, and teaching them in their classrooms civic duty, and about the duty that they have to this country and to themselves, to effectively exercise their right to vote. Understanding the nature of democracy and government in this country and indeed the world is essential in order for future generations to make more informed choices about their representatives. Dame Carol of all people should know this, she taught many fine young Papua New Guineans PNG Studies in high school.

    Our education system must be designed to accomplish this. We have the right to vote as individuals, we must independently exercise this right based on the merit of candidates.

    Other comments on this blog have included references to women excluded from Parliament because they don’t have the money or the aggression necessary to win elections. I would hate to have my gender represented in parliament by a bunch of softies, without the cunning, and the intelligence to win elections in the first place.

    Once our women leaders figure out how to win elections and secure a seat in parliament then I will be happy, because they will prove that they have the chops to sit in the “big house” with all the big boys. I for one do not want my gender represented by someone that can easily be bullied by male members of Parliament.

    In time, things will change. Giving these apparent women representatives a seat in parliament will not give them the respect of their peers. Instead, I believe they will become unwilling pawns that owe their entire existence to the current government. I’m quite certain that if we checked their voting records 12 months down the line, they would always be pro-government.

    What this country sorely lacks is the caliber of politicians necessary to effectively serve the people, regardless of their gender. Once our people understand and demand better standards of representation from their members, I’m certain gender will no longer be an issue.

    In conclusion, this band aid solution will not achieve much in my opinion, except to consolidate government numbers.

  8. fair comment by Molly! however, i also would like to think that the enforcement of this part of the Constitution should not be seen exclusively as the only available option. it should complement other political advocacy presence of women in all areas of society. debating the criteria and appointment processes takes up so much energy that we lose sight of the exploitable potential via the enforcement of s. 102. (i will qualify myself in due course by relating to the autonomous region of bougainville!)

    the onus is on all citizens of the country to creatively come up with strategies in the country to diversify women’s participation in the formal institutions…..not just at the national level. some local level governments in the highlands region [southern highlands province] had considerable number of women elected in last year’s local level government elections. this could be one very important start as well as the arena where the process begins – demonstrating leadership even at the local levels of government.

    Secondly, Molly mentioned that political education duties that is needed. if there is any existing inspiration we can work with it, it is seen in the silent campaign done my francisca semoso from the autonomous region of bougainville [autonomous bougainville government]. the same affirmative provisions of the bougainville constitution sets the quota for three women representatives to be “automatically” elected into bougainville’s legislature. if that is not a “tough” and “tested” position to come out of (as suggested by Molly) then look at how francesca semoso has disproven such myths that political behaviours of women will be perpetually determined by the agressive males. i recollect hearing her speak to Yumi FM on an interview two years ago and she states the same sentiments that Molly stated..she is apparently not seen as the genuine “duly elected leader” in the legislature of the ARB and not given much support. but this obviously has not limited her capacity to mobilise donor support and other such attention to the projects she continues to implement in her constituency. i reckon she is now seriously being taken notice of my her male colleagues in bougainville because of her resourcefulness.
    the circumstances could be different for women national level political “appointees” but its what these women nominated leaders do with their “parliament” mandate.

    Molly talks about political education and awareness. this should be one serious responsibility of the nominated women leaders. and that is exactly what semoso is doing and adocating in bougainville. i could be intepreted at making the simplistic assumptions but, the reality is we have not even seen the enforcement of the s. 102 and yet claim the potential negative aspects of it without strategically looking at ways to exploit the influence of women appointed leaders for the long-term goal of maximum women participation in politics.

    just my own rantings and i stand to be corrected….

  9. Very fair opinions voiced. I’m so glad that we have chosen to mention the Deputy Speaker of Parliament for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

    Papua New Guinea on the other hand is an entirely different kettle of fish. First and foremost, Bougainville is a matriarchal society, womens role have historically been viewed differently to the way in which most patriarchal societies in the rest of PNG operate. It is socially more acceptable for woman to play a leadership role.

    It is far easier for politicians in Bougainville to draw down on international aid due to the EU, UN, ADB, and AUSAID’s commitment to assist in the rebuilding of the region following the crisis.

    In other words what has worked in the region, may not be a workable solution here in PNG.

    Most importantly, it is the responsibility of all leaders to in every sector of society to ensure that future generations are more informed – not only women leaders. Just because women are the fairer sex, does not mean they are immune to corruption and will generally work harder.

    I believe that to allow women appointee’s to take their seats in parliament would be an admission of failure on the part of democracy and associated political ideals in this country. It is a signal to the people that this government does not value a long lasting solution, such as restructuring the education system in this country to benefit the political objectivity of future voters.

  10. that is why i look forward to the day when new ireland under its autonomous government arrangement can have 9 women-only designated seats in its provincial seat! the governor made a submission for the translation of NIP’s matrilineal identity into political reality. i support this move. last year during the NIP autonomy committee’s series of consultations in the province and port moresby, overwhelming support was given to this proposal. it just shows that preoccupation with national level politics and s. 102 should not limit other options for greater women participation.

    secondly, i would like to mention too that even though matrilinealism is there by name, in actual political activity women in these so-called matrilineal societies still face stiff challenges. as in the case of female candidates in new ireland and as well in the autonomous region of bougainville, they encounter the same problems in summoning the required political support. i recall theresa jainton campaigning in the national elections (2002) in bougainville and invoking the matrilineal identity of bougainville and peace-making contributions by bougainvillean women during her campaigns – these were apparently her credible points in the need for Bougainvillean women to be elected into the national legislature. it was not taken though by the voters (she did not win the seat). coming from a matrilineal society does not guarantee automatic success in elections! that is why the quota systems, have a place in such matrilineal societies but with the eventual hope that females will progressively not rely on these but be able to establish themselves and move on! the same principle applies for the s. 102!

    thirdly, i may be reading Molly’s writing wrongly (and i stand to be corrected) but the way i read it, there is considerable systems and processes that donor agencies abide by in the dispensing of their support in bougainville. it is not as relatively ‘easy’ as we are led to believe ( i emphasise again the same point above). in fact, the way semoso was speaking during the said Yumi FM interview, i could tell that she even had initial problems getting the trust of certain sections of the donor community and for obvious reasons. this people would have been cautiously acting and for a first-time female politician requesting assistance, she would have had to demonstrate to this people her management and book-keeping credentials.

    Finally and i quote Molly’s statement:….”I believe that to allow women appointee’s to take their seats in parliament would be an admission of failure on the part of democracy and associated political ideals in this country”…..i have implicitly noted above that the ideals of democracy manifested and defined through the procedural routine of elections has been abused in papua new guinea. democratic processes (elections) fail to live up to their expected and ideal outcomes. money politics, violence and intimidation and other such undue influence really negate the constitutional provisions for “free and fair elections” in this country!!! we hear and see cases of gun-running intimidation to bribery and pork-barrelling to outright vote-rigging and double voting, how would one expect free and fair outtcomes in such as environment? and yet, we wonder why some very good leaders (both men and women) don’t make it into parliament!

    em tasol

  11. kavaologist. here here. I most especially agree with your last paragraph.

    Democracy is a form of government in which power is held directly or indirectly by citizens under a free electoral system. Even though there is no universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes. The first principle is that all members of the society (citizens) have equal access to power and the second that all members (citizens) enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy

    If you agree with the definition of democracy then it is clear that the ‘system’ we have in PNG, whilst operational, is a model which falls far from the democratic ideal. In fact, it seems clear to me that promoting women to office isn’t a step away from democracy in PNG but a jump towards it.

    The majority of governing institutions in our country are dominated by men who generally further their own interests. Male-dominated political institutions of government do not promote women or women’s issues. To that end, internationally, mechanisms have successfully been used to overcome many of the obstacles to women’s legislative representation: such as the direct appointment of women to office.

    The appointment of women to parliament in PNG is not in and of itself a solution to the massive problem of systemic and systematic abuse of privileges by the ruling elite. The appointment of women to parliament in PNG intends to redress the fact that excluding women from positions of power and from elected bodies impoverishes the development of democratic principles in public life and inhibits the economic development of a society.

    To help clarify some of the issues being discussed:

    (a) Reasons given for the low participation of women in parliament are many and varied. These include:
    – lack of education and access to education
    – attitudinal barriers which prevent women from putting themselves forward
    – negative perceptions of the political and parliamentary process
    – the intense scrutiny given to women parliamentarians and the portrayal of women politicians by the media/society
    – financial barriers which make running for office difficult and structural barriers which hamper entry into politics.

    (b) Arguments put forward as to why women should be represented in greater numbers include:
    – women make up 52% the population and should therefore be represented proportionally – currently less than 1% of parliament is made up of women
    – the democratic system would lose its legitimacy if only one group in the community were seen to be represented
    – the focus of the political agenda is broadened to include issues such as domestic violence, women’s health etc
    – women bring a different perspective to the political debate
    – it is a more efficient use of human resources
    – greater involvement of women may temper the way in which politics today is often conducted and the way political decisions are made

    (c) Other than by direct appointment, a number of ways have been suggested to increase the representation of women, for example:
    – using a quota system
    – encouraging women to participate in the political process
    – endorsing women in safe or winnable seats
    – and setting up funds for women candidates
    – reserving seats

    Women around the world at every socio-political level find themselves underrepresented in parliament and far removed from decision-making levels. While the political playing field in each country has its own particular characteristics, one feature remains common to all: it is uneven and not conducive to women’s participation. Women who want to enter politics find that the political, public, cultural and social environments are often unfriendly or even hostile to them.

    In PNG:

    1. Women face political obstacles. Men dominate the political arena; men formulate the rules of the political game; and men define the standards for evaluation.
    2. Women face a masculine model of politics. For example, the political model is based on the idea of “winners and losers”, competition and confrontation, rather than on mutual respect, collaboration and consensus building. Women play important roles in campaigning and mobilizing support for their parties, yet they rarely occupy decision-making positions in these structures.
    3. Women have limited networking opportunities. There is limited contact and cooperation between women politicians and women’s organizations or other broad interest organizations and there are few, if any, organized channels of communication and lobbying on issues related to promoting women to decision-making levels.
    4. Women have poor access to education and training. Expanding the pool of women who are qualified for recruitment in political careers is also needed. This can be done by giving women access, from an early stage, to work patterns that are conducive to political leadership, such as special training in community-based or neighbourhood organizations.
    5. Socio-economic obstacles. The economic crisis in PNG as a “developing democracy” has intensified the risk of poverty for women, which, like unemployment, is likely to be increasingly feminized. It goes without saying that the social and economic status of women in society has a direct influence on their participation in political institutions and elected bodies.
    6. Another burden. In PNG women are carrying a disproportionate share of domestic work. Women’s participation in politics is further constrained by poverty, lack of education and access to information. It must be recognized that it is difficult for women to participate in political life when their major concern is survival and they have no choice but to spend much of their time trying to fulfil the basic needs of families. In addition to that, however, some women may have full-time jobs as wives and mothers as well as other full-time careers (e.g., as teachers, lawyers, doctors). Becoming a member of parliament in these conditions might then be considered a third full-time job.
    7. Ideological and psychological hindrances for women in entering parliament include the following:
    • Gender ideology and cultural patterns, as well as pre-determined social roles assigned to women and men;
    • Women’s lack of confidence to run for elections;
    • Women’s perception of politics as a “dirty” game; and
    • The way in which women are portrayed in the mass media.

    In summary, various factors can complicate women’s entry into parliament including:
    • Women’s weak access to and integration into political institutions;
    • The tailoring of many of these institutions according to male standards and political attitudes;
    • Lack of party support, including money and other resources to fund women’s campaigns and boost their political,
    social and economic credibility;
    • The lack of media attention on women’s contributions and potential, which also results in the lack of a
    constituency for women;
    • The lack of coordination with and support from women’s organizations and other NGOs;
    • Women’s low self-esteem and self-confidence, supported by certain cultural patterns which do not facilitate
    women’s access to political careers; and
    • The type of electoral system as well as the lack of quota reservations.
    (read International IDEA’s Handbook: Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers for more information on the above.)

    In light of the above I think it would be very difficult for anyone to sustain an argument that appointing women to office is going to in some way provide some unfair advantage or somehow mar the democratic ideal.

  12. Hi All, Sorry. Today news paper said, the government failed to pass the number. Only 60 out off 73 needed. Look’s like the PM not trying hard…..

    there go the democratic Ideal..

    Ac

  13. I’m so glad that we have all understood and identified “the nature of the beast”.

    For some reason you both seem to believe that by appointing women to parliament we will automatically be giving women a voice.

    Maybe.

    Will that voice be heard? I’m not convinced.

    The media only reports on the triumphs of our only female parliamentarian, Dame Carol. I wonder if either of you have ever sat in the public gallery at parliament in the past 12 years and watched this woman get fed to the wolves, many times by her own coalition partners?

    You are all discussing ideals, and fail to see the reality. In the early days, she was severely handicapped, until she learned HOW TO BE A POLITICIAN. In order to be an effective politician in PNG, one must learn to compromise. Compromise is all about understanding your own limitations, regardless of what those limitations may be, or how politically correct they are. In our society – not New Ireland, not Bougainville, not New Britain, gender has traditionally been, and will be for years to come, a limitation.

    We can all go back and forth talking crap, but at the end of the day, placing those 3 representatives in parliament is like sending lambs to the slaughter.

    I have an idea about how Dame Carol has voted over the past 7 years, and that has differed greatly from her voting record in what I consider to be her less successful term in Parliament, the first five years.

    It seems that many people have no grasp of just how dirty politics is in the country, even after you get in! I’m sure you’re all not naive enough to believe that once you get a seat all the boys will be nice to you?

    I refer to the final paragraph from the kavaologist:

    “i have implicitly noted above that the ideals of democracy manifested and defined through the procedural routine of elections has been abused in papua new guinea. democratic processes (elections) fail to live up to their expected and ideal outcomes. money politics, violence and intimidation and other such undue influence really negate the constitutional provisions for “free and fair elections” in this country!!! we hear and see cases of gun-running intimidation to bribery and pork-barrelling to outright vote-rigging and double voting, how would one expect free and fair outtcomes in such as environment? and yet, we wonder why some very good leaders (both men and women) don’t make it into parliament!”

    The concept of Democracy that I was referring to is what I consider to be the purest form. Government for the people, by the people. Let’s not give up on the concept, just because our experiences in the past at it’s execution have fallen short of the mark.

    I agree that women must be given a voice, but the same tactic’s used to get into parliament by other politicians may need to be used by female candidates. In other countries, lobby groups endorse and support candidates. Why can’t gender equality NGO’s form pressure groups that can raise money and employ the best to run campaigns for women candidates?

    There are certain seats that are easier to win for female candidates than others. Initially, urban seats should be targeted in Lae and Port Moresby. Targeting seats in the highlands region is suicide for women candidates – once again, this comes down to assessing the limitations society places in that region on women. We are a diverse nation, and accepted customs and practice (by this I include everything mentioned by the kavaologist in the excerpt above) whilst accepted in some regions, are not in others.

    My point is, women can get in on their own merit, they can win elections, but it is not the governments responsibility to fund campaigns etc, and in general, give them a lucky break. Candidates have to learn to be good fund raisers, and they have to lift their game.

    THEY HAVE TO THINK AND ACT LIKE ASTUTE POLITICIANS IN ORDER TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, AND REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

    I think for once Parliament did this country a service.

    Just my opinion.

  14. If you get the chance to buy or read today’s paper (March 11), take time to read thru Sir Mekere’s public notice on the “Appointment or Election of Women to Parliament?”. It epitomises everything that I have to say.

    Also I support the alternative proposed by the Opposition.

    Manu is it possible for you to scan and post it for our readers abroad?

  15. Olgeta,

    I’d like to firstly thank everyone who found the time to put forward their views on this one. Special thanks to those who took the opposing view point. This issue is too crucial to be indifferent about.

    That said, I think the parliament did make the right decision yesterday and the MPs who either voted against it or abstained must be congratulated for showing maturity and foresight.

    This is not a women versus men issue and those of us who have raised the dissenting voices have done so on this basis, although I must admit I would like the opportunity to go back and substitute some of the vocabulary I used in my earlier write up with better words to bring out this point clearly.

    You begin to see the issues better when you see the proposal to appoint people to parliament without the gender bias. The issues with regards to this proposal is not about women. The appointees can be Mr Joe Bloggs, the most brilliant person in PNG, and I will come out and say exactly the same things I have said all along.

    Issue one: The constitution is supposed to further the ideal of democracy and if it goes against this ideal, then it is inconsistent and must be corrected. This means that the constitution is subservient to the overaching ideal just as every law is subservient to the constitution. In this case, I am of the opinion that the constitution is inconsistent with the overarching ideal of democracy because it impinges directly on the democractic notion of government by the people. If anything, this must be corrected first.

    We can learn a great deal from the US, the greatest democracy in the world, in this regard. They never changed their constitution or laws just so that they could get a black person to become president. They persisted with it and educated everyone to a point where their people finally woke up one gloriuos morning in 2009 to realise that race was no longer an issue anymore with them. They could have easily opted for an easy way out just as we are trying to do now but they kept persisting and persisting until their dream as voiced by Martin Luther King all those years ago was realised this year.

    Issue two: If we opt for the easy way out and doctor a ‘new’ kind of democratic ideal to serve a narrow interest group, then we are leaving ourselves open for more of such manipulation. We can not set a dangerous precent by changing things only when it suits.

    Issue three: Experience tells me that the process of appointing people to our top posts in the public domain is already corrupt enough. What is the guarantee that this will not happen in this one as well? As I said earlier, the last thing we want to come out of this are three vulnerable people being appointed to go to parliament to serve their puppet masters. The elected MPs still retain ‘real power’ by virtue of their appointing authority.

    Sorry guys, I am not a researcher and so I can not back my arguments with reference to data samples collected. I am a layman and I see and argue my point based on what’s infront of me.

    Over to you guys.

    Cheers
    David

  16. I think that if women want to get into parliament then more women need to stand for elections-period.

    I think women have a very good chance of getting votes and I agree with Molly that urban seats will be easier to win. I believe the key to winning would be in campaigning harder, campaigning earlier and using new media and communications to your advantage and actually getting people to vote.

    Women politicians just need to lift their game, change up their tactics and identify target publics for them to win over.

  17. This is a very interesting read that I have followed for a long time.

    Woman in Bougainville has had it rough on them. I have interviewd alot on a report I worked on and they have told me that “woman in bougainville” was behind the peace-process. They initiate the progress and it was hijacked from them and they were not party to the rest of the peace agreement.

    Maybe that sums up some of the challenges woman face in Papua New Guinea. They are woman who stand up for something that is right…… then it gets taken away from their hands or they let others take the responsibility away from them.

    Woman seats in the Parliament had very opposing views by some people and they all have thier ideas. Most people think that “It will undermine the Spirit of democracy”. That we should just give up on democraxcy because we ourselves are not able to play with the laws of our constitution.

    I watched a movie last night called “the International” where Clive Owen (main actor) was told that if he operates within the law…. he will never achieve the greater good. As the law will always prevent that to happen. Sort of a check and balance mechanism.

    What I am trying to point here is that: Sometimes, democracy needs to be put aside if a greater good of a business or government must be achieve. If helping woman to get into parliament is a “Great Cause” for Papua New Guinea…..then must put democracy aside. Consider the near-coup by Jerry Singarok!! Democracy was put aside so that our Brothers and Sisters in Bougainville will be safe…… once this is acheived… democracy then kicks back into play.

    In business…. sometimes the manager needs to make a hard decision into to make profits or move ahead. Maybe not all shareholders had a chance to vote…. but this must happen for the business to prosper.

    Our mothers, sisters and daughters need a helping hand. If I can’t get all my brothers to agree on helping…. I will go out my way to help them. We need to help our woman into Parliament as it will achieve a greater good in the future of Papua New Guinea.

    Rex

  18. Rex,

    I hear your argument about greater good.

    But what good does it do when the act opens up the ‘can of worms’ and sets up a bad precedent for the future.

    You proposal about the ‘on and of democracy’ is what we want to avoid. We do not want people to use this as an example to cut corners in future only when it suits.

    In my view, the end does not justify the means.

    David

  19. Well here’s one radical perspective!

    Thanks to the democracy of this country

    THANK you Opposition Leader and your few supporters for not giving in to alien bullies who want to have their representatives barge into parliament through the back door. This is not a vote against women. It is a vote for democracy. It is a vote eliminating any idea of shortcuts to parliament by any interest group.

    We have sent a resounding no to the bullies at the United Nations and the international feminist lobby that we Papua New Guineans refuse to be pushed around.

    We have given away too many concessions to international treaties and obligations but there are areas where we need to say no and guard our sovereignty and democracy with firmness. Feminists and the UN have been bullying all sectors of life in the West with their
    family-destroying anti-male propaganda which they are trying to export to all corners of the globe through unsuspecting governments by the catchy claptrap of gender equality. There is no gender gap to close. Men are men and women are women for life with differences for the purpose of family cohesion. It is feminists who reckon they need to close the gap somewhere somehow and need to break rules to realise their dreams. They mislead women with promises of female victory over men and become frustrated when their ideals fizzle out.

    This broken dream has resulted in a societal landscape littered with mounting divorce, hatred, spousal violence and confused and lost children. Father democracy is firmly pointing its sure and steady finger at the one and only legitimate door through which all may enter Parliament. The polls. To Sir Michael Somare and Dame Carol Kidu, with all respect, please stop being the mouthpiece of alien interests waiting to introduce family-destroying anti-male legislation through their representatives. Unknown to many in PNG, women’s rights and feminism have been the single most destructive force that ruined family life and society in the West. If women think it is their right to enter parliament what happens to my right of not wanting to be governed and be subjected to laws made by people not elected through the democratic process? Where is my right in that regard?

    John Kross – Port Moresby

  20. Thanks Solo for the viewpoint. And sorry guys I can’t access the Post Courier for some reason. Will try and track down a copy of Mekere’s views and will put it up.

  21. Not only do I think women should be given seats, I believe there should be a reservation of at least 30% of all seats for women.

    Women are savers, long-term planners, and nurturers…

    All qualities I think should be valued more in policymaking.

  22. Yep, Molly, Illaine and David, “Parliament really did this country a GREAT SERVICE”! A service all of us, beneficiaries of the democratic ideals should be very proud of! Congratulations one and all…. seriously. This also implies that the “letter of the law” (Constitution) SHOULD NEVER BE TAKEN AT FACE VALUE FOR WHAT IT REALLY IS NOT! And in the meantime we just trudged along, relying every five years on an increasingly growing rational voting public and a gradually evolving participant political culture to eventually get women into parliament ON MERIT – wheeling and dealing if the need arises (Molly)!

    Speaking of things Constitutional, maybe ss. 101 and 102 should also be deleted off the Constitution (or unless a surviving member of the original CPC tell us exactly why we should go on retaining it in the Constitution). Based on people’s views in this forum, we don’t have to utilize these provisions anyway, and given the alleged ambiguity surrounding their enforcement, it is no use having these provisions ‘BILASIM PEPA TASOL! For those who came in late, the two particular provisions read:

    “101. MEMBERSHIP.
    (1) Subject to this section, the Parliament is a single-chamber legislature, consisting of–
    (a) a number of members elected from single-member open electorates; and
    (b) a number of members elected from single-member provincial electorates; and
    (c) not more than three nominated members, appointed and holding office in accordance with Section 102 (nominated members).
    “102. NOMINATED MEMBERS.
    The Parliament may, from time to time, by a two-thirds absolute majority vote, appoint a person (other than a member) to be a nominated member of the Parliament.”

    If these provisions are avenues where “short cuts” (David Kross) are used by sectional interests (feminists) to further their agendas “and leaving ourselves open for more of such manipulation” (David Kitchnoge), I repeat, their forthwith deletion and closure is now!

    On that point, I wonder what constitute’s David Kross’s definition of “sectional interest” (feminist) in Papua New Guinea – a largely subsistence and rural dominated society with womenfolk still contending with the daily routine of fetching water from the rivers, gardening, etc. against an alien “family-destroying anti-male propaganda”. Is it really that obvious or pronounced that women nominated members of parliament have these agendas spelt out already, awaiting implementation when given half a chance in parliament. It is ridiculously simplistic, it even defies the purportedly complex legislative-making processes of this country, especially if it concerns women’s – or femininst issues (even as we are finding out with the attempts to pass laws for the realization of ss.101-102)!

    I wonder if the more than 4,000 womenfolk and concerned citizens who signed the petition in the March Against Violence, which was presented by Dame Kidu on the floor of Parliament on October 2007 are feminists “under sheep skin”. Is speaking against rape a feminists’ pastime or preoccupation? I may be ignorant of the definitional attributes of that very broad and vague term as it really affects the ordinary women of this country, but shedding light on these terms can really help situate my own position! I support ss. 101-102 but I don’t consider myself a feminist. A “traditionalist” maybe – embroiled in my conception of my ‘matrilineal heritage’ which realistically cannot be worked out or accommodated through any affirmative national legislation, even though the National Goal and Directive Principle Number 5 calls for the use of “Papua New Guinean Ways” in the organization of contemporary PNG!! I guess the diversity of PNG has no room for such accommodative “compromises” (Molly) and the New Ireland provincial autonomy proposal for the incorporation of the matrilineal identity is perhaps the next best thing for the likes of us!

    But seriously, what constitutes a feminist in PNG? And how can a nominated member (women) who will only have tenure in Parliament “FROM TIME TO TIME” (not guaranteed LIFE-TIME membership in the parliament) ever pass or mobilize to pass these feminist-oriented legislations or policies in these presumably short intervals? I really am trying to grasp the practicalities of applying the literal interpretation of the letter of these sections of the Constitution (101 and 102) with the known dynamics of law making in this country!! I guess I shall leave that to our learned writers to shed light on that!

    Before I part from this very informative and enriching thread for good, just some parting observations! I find it very interesting that the David Kitchnoge even mentions the United States and the high office of the presidency in his urgings not to amend (‘change’) their constitution (although a near-obsession routine of PNG parliaments is recent decades has been that – amendments and more Organic Law amendments). He states:

    “We can learn a great deal from the US, the greatest democracy in the world, in this regard. They never changed their constitution or laws just so that they could get a black person to become president”.

    Of course the United States Constitution was not changed (ammended)! But the PNG Constitution was ammended in 1995 to usher in the provincial government reforms! The PNG National Parliament enacted two constitutional laws intended to implement the political settlement provided for in the Bougainville Peace Agreement, unprecedented by world standards because in that PNG effectively relegates its territorial integrity secondary to “higher ideals” of peace. The point is: men make Constitutions (Constitutions are man-made), but equally men make history and precedents! Some precedents are for the good and put to beneficial use, evolving along the way, with the appropriate checks and balances.

    When David Kitchnoge mentioned the United States to argue the idealism of American democracy, the supposed yardstick for all to “learn from”, he failed to note that an equally significant political movement was also “on the move” in that country even as far back as the late 1840s.

    That movement was the women’s universal suffrage, which aimed to achieve its goal of winning full voting rights for women. The women’s universal suffrage came about when the nineteenth amendment was ratified [which means that an existing provision was already in the US Constitution] in 1920. Imagine, women in the United States weren’t guaranteed the right to vote, even in their own Constitution prior to 1920. One may ask, how does it relate to passage of the ss. 101 and 102 from the PNG Constitution?

    Well consider this: in an EVOLVING DEMOCRACY (that is that word again) with a Constitution that is MAN-MADE and therefore AMMENDABLE to suit the CHANGING and PRESSING CIRCUMSTANCES, is that not a common trajectory of the American 1920s achievement and the present ss.101-102 debate.

    Were the women in this movement told by the Congress (Parliament) that their DEMANDS WERE mere SHORT CUTS or a EASY WAY OUT, hence their need to seek legal interpretation from the Supreme Courts (JUDICIARY – third arm of government!)? Apparently no! The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, (Women’s Suffrage Rights Article [XIX]) granting women the right to vote was passed (from the existing Article [XVIII] and was signed into law by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. A common sense, pragmatic piece of American approach to pursuing its democratic ideals! The parallels are there.

    I guess as a Papua New Guinean, what I take out of this whole debate is that some PNG legislators are just insecure or even warped in time and cannot allow for the expansion of their horizons of creativity and innovation in the legislative and policy-making process. Well, I guess that is the travesty of PNG democracy!

    And finally, Molly had something to say. She envisages the likely and predictable scenario where any female nominated MP will “be fed to the wolves” or “like a lamb to the slaughter”. Does this mean that you women don’t have the physical stamina or even the resolve to stand up for your values and the capacity to mobilize and muster the support network that could be readily available at your disposal? Somewhat fatalistic a projection is not seen in the manner in which Nahau Rooney and Dame Abaijah thrived, nor even Francesca Semoso thrives!

    We may be idealized, having not sat in the public gallery to see what transpires in the MEN’S HOUSE, but I am sure that talking, chest thumping is not the characteristics of PNG women. I may be wrong. The PNG male politicians, who you hinted, intimidated Dame Kidu in the 12 years you have seen her terms in parliament have not stopped here from “silently achieving” within her ministry and community!! Sam Basil rarely talks – only when he appears as a middleman to air the grievances of the communities affected by the mining in his electorate. Powes Parkop does not talk much! And yet these are three most progressive leaders PNG has had in as many years. For what she does not have in the cutthroat business of “talking”, she accomplishes through her works. How different is she from any nominate members?

    Molly says she is not convinced that the appointments will make any difference to the voices of women being heard on the floor of parliament! You tell that to the more than 4,000 womenfolk and concerned citizens who signed the petition in the March Against Violence, which was presented by Dame Kidu on the floor of Parliament on October 2007. You tell that to the hundreds of women who waited for the outcome of the passage of this contentious bill outside parliament last night! And thousands more of concerned citizens out there! Doesn’t that level of expectation, by the ordinary women of PNG tell you anything about the willingness to support each other and the available network to advocate for national developmental issues that affect women on the floor of parliament?

    Finally, Molly states that we talk about ideals, instead of practical reality. Well, the practical will only be realized if the ideals are tested. Why do we even have the very State system, now are debating about? Because an idealist by the name of Montesquieu sat down and idealized this concept of the “Separation of Powers” or because Rousseau and Lockes and Hobbes – all “idealists” idealized the ideal society where the “social contract and the “leviathan” were the governing realities.

    Thanks and all the best everyone!

  23. Thanks the kavaologist for your comprehensive response to some of the points we’ve raised.

    I have already stated my position that I am not against women and so I will not talk about these honourable group of people in responding to some of the points you raised.

    There was a misconception on your part to my reference to American’s not changing their constitution. What I meant is that they have not changed their constitution to suit a narrow interest group as we are trying to do here. It is not about them not touching it completely. Offcourse rules are made by people and can be changed where necessary.

    In this regard, your alluding to Americans changing their constitution to allow women to vote is a completely different thing altogether to what has been proposed in PNG. Their not allowing women to vote went directly against the basic human right of freedom of choice and, therefore, had to be amended to correct this. In our case, everyone above the age of 18 in PNG is eligible to vote. You are not exactly comparing apples with apples here.

    Our ealier constitutional amendments with regards to provincial governments and Bougainville that you talked about have not resulted in challenging a core pillar of democracy. The current proposal does. It challenges the notion of government by the people.

    We do not need to ask the originators of our constitution to understand what exactly they meant in section 102. The constitution is a perpetual document and, therefore, to say ‘let’s go back and ask one of the originators to understand it’ is ridiculous. They may have had a reason for putting it in there, but if we believe today that a particular section does not sit well with how things should be, then yes we can go back and make the necessary changes.

    As I said, the constitution must further the principle of democracy and not lessen it. If there is a section in the constitution that is inconsistent with the democratic ideal that the writers of our constitution chose to adopt for us, then remove it. If there is a section that gives rise to any ambiguities, remove it. If there is a section that potentially threatens the existence and credibility of the constitution itself, then remove it. If there is a section in the constitution that allows for cutting corners only when it suits and in the process setting up a bad precedent, remove it.

    David

  24. Some alternatives here:

    (1) Create a sit in the 20 provinces for ONLY women candidates to contest – thus allowing each province to have a women “elected” representative which will ultimately result in 20 women elected representatives in parliament as opposed to the current proposition of 3 nominated representatives. Now women will have a much greater voice!

    I would love to see how the male-dominated political parties would jump up with all their resources to fund a woman candidate in order to make their numbers in parliament.

    OR

    (2) re: ss 101 and 102 of the Constitution – for the three nominated seats I propose that we nominate (1) women rep (2) youth rep (3) disable rep. We have to be fair to all minorities in our country. Currently there is no-one vouching for the disables who need to be treated fairly in employment, building accessibility, parking, fair treatment and respect etc.

    Or perhaps look at having the president of the National Council of Women being concurrently the women rep in Parliament instead of a long cumbersome process of nominating a women rep.

    OR

    (3) Push to legislate for the creation of an additional government department tasked specifically with addressing women’s issues e.g. Ministry of Women Development. The Ministry will be operating like any other government department that will propose legislations and make policies on furthering the cause and development of the womenfolk in the country. Or perhaps elevating the National Council of Women to a departmental status. I reckon this will be more effective in terms of enforcing practical issues than a mere voice in parliament.

    Let’s be more constructive and innovative to see ways where women can participate meaningfully. The first point actually reinforces Sir Mekere’s alternative to “elected” women reps as opposed to “nominated” women reps.

  25. Thanks Solo.

    If you gave me a choice, I’d take number 1.

    Because it gives power right back to the people and empowers us to ask the pertinent questions during the polls about the candidates’ policies and plans if they make it to parliament. We can then make an informed choice.

    I acknowledge that this is not what is exactly happening right now and people’s choices are being clouded by undue influences. But that is the ultimate path and there is no doubt in my mind that we will go down that road once our population are sufficiently educated and our democracy matures.

    In the polls, either only women can vote for their 20 women candidates to fill the reserved women’s sits or all of us can vote together.

    David

  26. David, if in the polls, as a democratic process, all eligible citizens regardless of their gender will have to vote for whoever woman candidate they see fit to represent us.

    It will only be seen as gender bias and obviously undemocratic to some extent for only women to vote for women candidates thus lacking the mandate of the general voting populace.

  27. Solo,

    I agree with that view and would like to see Sir Mekere and the opposition sponsor a bill along those lines in the near future.

    There is no doubt that important decisions in parliament must be made with more input from the women’s perspective. But proper processes that are consistent with our overarching ideals must be followed to reach that goal.

    David

  28. It’s because of arguments and analysis like this that allows us to be a democracy. Without it, we would really be under a dictator. It’s only when people cry foul, that keeps the powers that be in line.

    Watched Q & A last night on ABC…With discussions like this, I think it’s time we had something similar in PNG!

  29. aren’t we a DEMOCRACY already?

    on that note, i kinda like the 2nd option from Solo though..

    (2) re: ss 101 and 102 of the Constitution – for the three nominated seats I propose that we nominate (1) women rep (2) youth rep (3) disable rep. We have to be fair to all minorities in our country. Currently there is no-one vouching for the disables who need to be treated fairly in employment, building accessibility, parking, fair treatment and respect etc.

    That is what s. 55 (2) seems to be hinting at:

    55. EQUALITY OF CITIZENS

    1) Subject to this Constitution, all citizens have the same rights, privileges, obligations and duties irrespective of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, religion or sex.

    (2) “Subsection (1) does not prevent the making of laws for the special benefit, welfare, protection or advancement of females, children and young persons, members of underprivileged or less advanced groups or residents of less advanced areas”.

    Section 55(2) is therefore a provision that could be the basis to look at, not just for women but other groups in the community.

    So contrary to the views of the kavaologist, s.101 and 102 have a role in the enhancement of . The CPC were an intelligent lot knowing full well that the evolution of PNG democracy (and capitalism – who has the financial resources and connections) will have its institutional and structural impediments, especially at it affects members of society. Hence, the relevance of s. 101 and 102.

    I was rather disappointed however, that the actual process was not open initially for input from the public and debate outside of the legislative-making arena.

    my own thoughts..

  30. oh yeah, and did i get it from somewhere that the constitution is suppose to be a “living document”? all this add up to the need for affirmative action implemented only after a thoroughly researched and debated understanding of the issues….

  31. From the top of my head, I think our elections are a great example of PNG failing democratically…if elections are considered the primary benchmark for the functioning of a democratic system – it is obvious that there are many inconsistencies with reported violent and chaotic conduct of the polls.

    I think democracy is the ultimate goal…

    but no, we’re not there yet.

  32. yep wantok. I truly and 100 per cent agree with you. scholars in political modernization such as Samuel Huntington have been criticised for placing rigid emphasis on elections as the hallmark of a democracy. elections are democratic, but the fairness of elections is what I have a problem with. as we see in zimbabwe and venezuela, even that intrinsic part of democracy is subjected to abuse and democratically elected authoritarians emerge. some commentators on this forum too say that government by the people is democracy. i agree and to a certain extent that is the ideal. however bribing one’s way into parliament and killing of enemy tribesmen to intimidate one tribe to vote for the agressor’s candidate just makes for a good case against that concept of “government by the people”. were the people in a secure and free state of mind to cast their vote or was the casting of their votes priced for the highest bidder….as is inevitable we in such activities, we marginalise certain sections of our political community. and if this practices of exercising democracy goes on for years and becomes entrenched in the culture and minds of people, then seriously the outcome of elections is questionable, and with it that ideal of government of the people! the “right to free and fair elections” and the problems that emerge if that is not realisec could then be ameliorated through affirmative actions….one cannot turn a blind eye to the obvious dysfunctions in that so-called democratic process!!!!

  33. knowing Lady Veronica, she would be advising the Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare to lobby harder for ss. 101/102 to to be re-introduced in parliament when parliament next sits!

    on the othe hand, i wonder what Lady Roselyn Morauta’s perceptions are?

  34. I do not like politics but think nominating woman is totally undemocratic.
    If dame Carol Kidu can do it, why not others?

    Funny to read woman already quarreling for this issues. Let them go through the normal procedures.
    Again why at the first place create such agenda or idea then? Creating woman politics will solve all the issues this country is facing?

    Housing,water,electricity,salaries,roads and bridges,education,crime and violence and corruption. Fix these then talk others, otherwise, nominating woman will not solve one inch of the problems.

    PNG is good at creating more offices. Wasting tax payers money and toiling centuries without CHANGE!

  35. i give up on this issue. i say, either take it to the people through a referendum after thorough consultation and awareness or even try a Supreme Court interpretation…only then we know the very essence of this contentious part of the Constitution! the more we argue about the “undemocratic-ness” of it, the more we going nowhere!

    1. Why stop at women, youth and the disabled? Why not give away a parlimentary seat to a gay as well? Gay rights are equally as important right?

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