PNG LEADER OF OPPOSITION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT BILL 2012

By the Leader of the Opposition, Dame Carol Kidu

The Constitution and an Independent Judiciary have been critical factors that have held over 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/her conduct then certainly he/she should face the consequences as would any citizen but to put the Parliament and NEC above the judiciary is completely unacceptable.   It seems that there is now 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 proposed Bill would surely be unconstitutional and should NOT have been entertained by Parliament.

It is typical knee-jerk legislation that has resulted from the incumbent government’s desire to remove certain individuals from the Bench.  Legislation should not be drafted to remove particular individuals from positions, in the public service and now the proposed Bill will do the same to the Judiciary.      There are processes already in place to remove people from public positions if their conduct is in question.

The argument that this legislation is to protect the judiciary is ludicrous – perhaps the word should be to control the judiciary or to intimidate the judiciary.  This is now legislating the constant statement that Parliament is supreme – a statement that I have constantly qualified.  Parliament is 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.

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11 thoughts on “PNG LEADER OF OPPOSITION ON JUDICIAL CONDUCT BILL 2012

  1. Hats off to you Dame Kidu. A brilliant short piece – I don’t think it could be explained more succinctly.

    So where does this leave us folks? What are we, the people of PNG, going to do about this? What are you going to do about it?

    It’s your country, your future, your life. Own it and make a difference. Nothing is too little or too small.

  2. A Group of people through Sharp Talk have already begun discussions on how best to tackle the issue with the workers union and other groups.

    Will find out on the latest with them and advise

  3. Liam Fox, ABC PNG correspondent
    Last Updated: 7 hours 13 minutes ago

    The Australian Opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop says she would be worried if new laws in Papua New Guinea undermine the independence of the nation’s judiciary.

    Julie Bishop said Papua New Guinea is a sovereign nation and the parliament is free to pass laws as it sees fit.

    But she says she hopes to raise the issue with the PNG high commissioner.

    “Like all democratic nations its parliament does have a responsibility to ensure that it acts at all times to strengthen the democratic institutions of the country. If this proposed law weakens the independence of the judiciary that could be a worrying development,” she said.

    Controversial law

    Papua New Guinea’s Parliament has passed a controversial law that will give it the ability to suspend senior judges who are perceived to be biased.

    The government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill used its numbers to pass its Judicial Conduct Bill through Parliament with minimal debate.

    When it comes into force, Parliament will have the power to suspend a judge deemed to have not acted impartially.

    Parliament will be able to direct the Governor-General to appoint a tribunal to investigate allegations, but while that happens the judge cannot hear cases.

    The Attorney-General Allan Marat has told Parliament the law will help judges uphold the integrity of the judicial system.

    But the Opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu says it will erode the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

    Dame Carol says judges are already policed by the Ombudsman Commission and there is no need for the new law.

    Paul Barker, executive director of the Institute of National Affairs, says judges and PNG’s citizens will be concerned about the legislation change.

    “Although this is a simple act of parliament, it’s not a constitutional one,” he told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific.

    “It’s clearly trying to amend or adjust the set of rules which are normally within the constitutional bounds.

    “These sorts of major changes really should be dealt with after an election, and after there’s a new government formed. And I think that the public would probably feel more comfortable with that.”

  4. We the people of Papua New Guinea, need to support Dame Carol Kidu in opposing this bill. As Dame Carol has already stated, there are mechanisms that are in place to scrutinize Judges. This bill is clearly being introduced as as a desperate act to control the Judiciary.

  5. Outcry over PNG’s Judicial Conduct law

    (Posted at 07:27 on 22 March, 2012 UTC – Radio New Zealand International)

    Concern is gowing in Papua New Guinea over a new law that empowers the government to suspend judges.

    The unprecedented law, which is retrospective to November 1 last year, comes amid an ongoing dispute between the government and the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.

    The government of Peter O’Neill has made several attempts to have Sir Salamo suspended while he has been presiding over key cases on the constitutionality of the government.

    Those cases are still pending.

    Johnny Blades reports:
    PNG’s parliament, dominated by the supporters of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government, passed the Judicial Conduct Bill by 63 votes to 7 less then a day after it was introduced.

    The former Chief Justice, Sir Arnold Amet, has instructed his legal counsel to file a constitutional challenge against the Judicial Conduct law.
    Sir Arnold, who is the Attorney General in the Somare grouping which also claims to be PNG’s legitimate government, says the law is a dangerous precedent, compromising the independence of the judiciary.
    “What the parliament has decided is that as a result of recent applications by this rogue regime to disqualify the Chief Justice, that if a judge refuses to disqualify him or himself then parliament may deem that to be a failure on his part and move a motion to refer the judge to the Head of State for investigation which is utter nonsense, ridiculous. There is a judicial process.”

    The Attorney General, Dr Allan Marat, says the law will promote the integrity of the legal system based on the principle of an independent, fair and competent judiciary.

    But Sir Arnold says the law is an abuse of the system.
    “And as lawyers and jurors know, retrospective legislation are very rare and they’re designed to correct mistakes but not designed to be abusive, to bring sanctions on an action that at the time was not wrong. So what has happened here is it is specifically designed to attack the Chief Justice.”

    While Sir Arnold was not allowed to debate this bill by the Speaker Sir Jeffery Nape, one of the MPs who did was opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu.

    She says whether the bench has acted improperly or not is something that can be determined without resorting to this law change.
    “And if it’s felt that there needs to be something more stringent thing for the bench because of its real importance in terms of integrity and transparency, we’ll find some other mechanism. But don’t make parliamentarians the scrutineers of the judiciary. It concerns me. I ask myself, in general who would I trust more, the judges on the bench or the parliamentarians? In general I would say I trust the judges more.”
    Dr Ray Anere of the National Research Institute says it remains to be seen whether the independence of the judiciary can be maintained following this legislation.

    “But there have been streams of public comments and opinion, particularly on the fear that the legislation amounts to executive dictatorship… I see all of these things – the conduct of the Speaker, the conduct of the executive government and the passage of the legislation – all have a common element which is to strengthen the hold on to power by the current executive government.”

    Meanwhile, commentators expect the government will move quickly to oust Sir Salamo.

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