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.