Vote of No Confidence queried


PORT MORESBY, 22 JANUARY 2019 (POST COURIER) – A special Supreme Court reference has been filed to determine the constitutionality of a vote of no-confidence and the powers of the Supreme Court to adjudicate over parliamentary processes.

The Reference SCR 5 of 2018 is a Section 19 reference, seeking the Supreme Court’s opinion and interpretation of various constitutional laws. It was brought by the Attorney-General Davis Steven and was filed by Twivey Lawyers on December 3 last year.

There are 15 questions concerning four issues.

The first issue is “Whether nominated Prime Minister must be from a party with most numbers?” The two first questions deal with this issue given the Constitution and Integrity Law when read together require that after an election – as the party with the most members must be invited to form government, must any nomination of a new Prime Minister in a vote of no-confidence also be required to be from the party of the most numbers ?

The second issue is on votes of no-confidence and justiciability, questions 3 to 11 deal with issues concerning justiciability and the procedures of Parliament and its committees.

These questions arise from a recent decision of the Supreme Court on July 12, 2016, whereby an application pursuant to S18 (1) of the Constitution by Don Polye displayed an exercise by the court over every aspect of the process in Parliament and its committees, to the extent of defining words in the Standing Orders and limiting in future the discretion of the Speaker, the Clerk of Parliament and the Private Business Committee contrary to the Constitution and Standing Orders. This decision according to the referrer raises serious issues concerning the Supreme Court’s powers to interfere in the process concerning motions for vote of no-confidence.

The third issue is “Declaration of Judicial Acts Unconstitutional” Question 12 deals with this issue by asking the Supreme Court to give its opinion on the constitutionality of another Supreme Court decision, and whether the Supreme Court can do that.

The fourth and the last issue is “Interpretation of the phrase “Total Number of Seats in Parliament. Questions 13 to 15 deal with this issue in that previous Supreme Court decisions combined have resulted in an issue arising as to the meaning of this phrase.

Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch has described the Supreme Court reference as a desperate attempt by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to hold onto power. Pruaitch said Monday the last-minute reference was for the Prime Minister to convince the Speaker that it was “subjudice” matter and should not be dealt in Parliament.

The Speaker should not treat it as subjudice matter but let the normal parliamentary process take its course,” he said.

Meanwhile, Parliament resumes at 2pm for what is destined to be a very interesting session.

Although the vote of no-confidence would not be introduced in this sitting, many were anticipating a gruelling few days of hard-line discussions nonetheless.

The National House rose last November with clear dissension in its midst, with talk of a possible vote in the coming months, post-APEC woes and other matters like that of the deteriorating health sector.

Indeed, the government and the opposition had never been more at odds. The opposition had in the past few weeks, managed to conjure up a few topical issues that could not so easily be swept under the rug.

However, members of the government of the day had remained steadfast in their resolve to keep pushing onward with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at the helm.

The question of how these luxury vehicles were used during the APEC meet may now be a topic of the past, but, the question of how many were left and before public tender would indeed be a plausible question.

Also bound to be aired on the Floor will be the grotesque and unfortunate topic of rogue policemen after recent reports of rape and abuse by senior officers.

A question most likely to be put forward and also on a trending topic would be the mysterious KPHL annual report mishap, where an official document was made public then pulled down and scraped as a dud when questions relating to figures therein were asked of the state entity.

Matters to do with the recently passed 2019 Budget would also most certainly be brought to the attention of Parliament because there was sure to be praised for and a few arguments against various components of the National Budget documents.

There is also bound to be talk on the smaller but equally significant issues around the country like in the declining cancer facility in Lae and general health services around the country, the dropping standards of some state entities like Air Niugini and the increasing reports of adolescent children being abused.

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