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Constitution under siege; no one cares - lawyer


THE MALADINA amendment may be unconstitutional because Parliament does not have powers to amend the Constitution, according to Peter Donigi, one of PNG’s most eminent lawyers.

Two weeks ago Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina introduced amendments to Section 27(4) of the Constitution to remove the independent power of the Ombudsman Commission to issue directives preventing payments from public funds to officeholders where it believes there is impropriety.

In the past, the Commission has used this provision to stop MPs taking overseas trips when it felt the trips were a waste of public funds and has prevented the Finance Department issuing cheques if it felt the motives were political.

“We want to make it very clear that the action of the Ombudsman in issuing such directives is wrong,” Mr Maladina said, and he proposed a so-called 'parliamentary ombudsman committee' to be set up to make its own inquiries.

Parliament voted 83-0 to amend Section 27(4) but Mr Donigi says the Constitution only gives provides for alteration if the change supports the spirit of the Constitution, which is equality and democracy.

He also said the Constitution could not be amended without a national referendum. But there was no provision for a referendum in the PNG Constitution.

Mr Donigi said it appeared that the Constitution is under siege and no one seemed to care.

“I challenge Mr Moses Maladina to a public debate to be co-ordinated by the vice chancellor of the University of PNG,” he said.

“The rules of the debate are to be determined by the vice chancellor. Mr Maladina must accept my challenge or withdraw all his proposed constitutional amendments,” he said.

Source: Drawn in part from ‘Parlt lacks power to amend’ by Caldron Laepa (The National) and ‘Top lawyer debates on amendment’ by Harlyne Joku (Post-Courier)


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Yuambari Haihuie

Could someone please record the debate for posterity, i.e. YouTube.


Moses versus Peter: a battle of the saints?
Let us see who is a saint and true servant
Let us know who's is sense and who's is rant
Let us hear the cant of the ignorant
Perhaps we can encourage a recant

Lest the throne of democratic principle in parliament become ever more evidently vacant
Did that notorious vote really take place
It is hard to believe such a unanimous disgrace
Perhaps some alternate god will intercede to save face
But this debate must surely take place

The Maladina amendments are a monstrous, mischievous malady
A miscellany of malodorous melodies
Delivered with moronic mal-intent
Let us hear Donigi divulge its true intent
To destroy the instrument that makes us independent

Once reason has subjected idiocy
This nation will bear witness the return of democracy

Paul Oates

Donigi versus Maladina is real, practical politics in action and should demonstrate a healthy way forward for PNG.

Peter Donigi is to be congratulated for speaking out and standing up for his country in a time of desperate need.

The only problem I foresee is that a debate in Moresby is disconnected from most of the PNG people.

What should now happen is a concerted effort to advertise, televise and broadcast this debate on all public TV and radio and in the local PNG newspapers. Rural residents and those in other PNG towns and cities desperately need to become interested and involved.

They need to start asking what their local member thinks and how they will vote on this issue.

Who will initiate and promote interest in this debate, however? The PNG Opposition or perhaps some public spirited NGO's and business leaders?

Perhaps the press may find that this important issue is a great way to sell newspapers?

Now is the time for action by all true PNG patriots to stand with Mr Donigi and be counted.

Reginald Renagi

This should be an interesting debate as Moses Maladina has accepted lawyer Peter Donigi's challenge.

The debate is scheduled next month at the University of PNG's main forum area, where everyone is invited to attend before the bill goes into its second reading in Parliament this year.

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