| Academia Nomad
PORT MORESBY - There may be more, but going by media reports since 2020, three Australians have broken the laws of Papua New Guinea and walked free.
They have been helped by a combination of outdated laws and police negligence.
The first case involved an Australian pilot who, in July 2020, crashed an aeroplane on the outskirts of Port Moresby attempting to fly 500kg of cocaine out of the city.
The PNG Drug Act 1952 doesn’t list cocaine as illicit or illegal so the pilot was charged only for entering PNG without a passport.
Later that same month, the Australian Federal Police reported that a 36-year-old New South Wales man had been arrested at Atherton in Queensland for drug trafficking and providing material support to a criminal organisation.
If convicted, he faced a penalty of up to life imprisonment. He would likely have escaped prosecution in PNG.
In November 2021, police discovered a methamphetamine (meth) laboratory at the Sanctuary Hotel in Port Moresby.
However, the man they apprehended was not charged with drug offences because the Drug Act made no mention of meth. So instead he was charged with illegal possession of weapons.
At the time, police described the outdated drug laws as a “slap in the face” given the resources and time they had put into their investigation, “yet we cannot take it to the court process”.
According to Section 37 (2) of the PNG Constitution, a person cannot be charged for an offence not provided by law.
This has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of PNG as “the fundamental proposition [that] nobody may be convicted of an offence that is not defined by, and the penalty for which is not prescribed by, written law.”
So who should be blamed that criminal cartels operate freely in PNG?
The answer may surprise some of you because it lies squarely at the feet of PNG’s politicians.
According to sections 99 and 100 of the Constitution, only MPs can repeal, amend or make laws. If the MPs don’t do their jobs, no one else can.
People have been led to believe that MPs are many things: project managers; service deliverers; in some cases walking ATMs. But one of their key jobs is making laws.
The third case was a result of police negligence or ignorance. Whether they were not educated in the matter is anyone’s guess.
Sean Honey, an Australian, was arrested on six counts of weapons possession and one count of cannabis possession.
The court found that police used the wrong form to search his premises.
The Search Act 1977 and Search Regulations 1977 decree that Form 3 shall be used for such searches.
The police had used Form 4.
According to the secretary of the Law Reform Commission, about 370 PNG laws are outdated by at 50 years and are of no practical use in the modern age.
But instead of debating, repealing and amending these laws, MPs are busy delivering services in their respective provinces.
Instead of performing law-making duties, they adjourn parliament to avoid votes of no confidence.
After elections, they descend into two camps and hope their side wins government so they can get their hands on the state coffers.
Before the forthcoming national election, ask your local MP what is his main role as a representative of the electorate.
If he says “service delivery”, chase him out of your village. He doesn’t know his job.