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Papua New Guinea - Government

The independent state of PNG is a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy. The state gained independence from Australia in 1975 and adopted its own constitution on 16 September of that year, following several years of internal self-rule by a democratically elected chief minister and government.

In general, changes in the Constitution or its organic laws require the favourable vote of two-thirds of all the members of Parliament (normally 73). The new law must state clearly that it changes the Constitution. It must be presented to Parliament at 2 meetings separated by at least 2 months, and it must be printed and circulated to all members of Parliament so that they will have time to study carefully the proposed change. This process can be speeded up in cases of emergency.

Papua New Guinea is an independent parliamentary democracy, with the British monarch as Head of State, represented in PNG by a Governor General. The person to be Governor -General is decided by Parliament after a secret vote. The monarch appoints him and he serves for six years. The Governor-General cannot make laws or decisions by himself. In PNG the Governor-General follows decisions made by the NEC (Cabinet) when he signs official documents on behalf of the monarch; represents the monarch at official ceremonies; and checks the honours and awards nominations, which are sent to the monarch for approval.

The Constitution sets up three arms of government. They are Parliament, the National Executive Council, and the courts. Each branch is independent of the others. Each serves as a check on the others, avoiding a concentration of powers that could lead to dictatorship.

The Prime Minister leads the Government and has both lawmaking and executive roles. After each national election, parliamentarians elect a prime minister, who in turn appoints ministers from members of his/her party and/or coalition. However, Parliament can reject his programme and/or remove him from office by a vote of no confidence. The courts can rule the government's actions illegal. All three arms of government are based at Waigani, NCD.

There are three levels of government: National, Provincial, and LLGs. Regional electorates correlate with the country's 22 provincial constituencies. Each province has its own assembly and administration.

The constitution ensures freedom of speech and the press, and states that the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the people should be exercised by the national government divided into three independent branches - the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary.

The Legislative Branch makes the laws and the plans. This is the Parliament in national government and the Provincial Assembly in the provincial government.

National Parliament is composed of 109 persons who have been elected from districts throughout PNG to make the nation's laws. Only Parliament can amend the Constitution. Parliament adopts the budget each year to keep government services operating. Parliament's approval is required for any treaties with other nations concerning trade, defence, or other mutual concerns. Parliament's approval is usually needed before the government can borrow large sums of money from overseas. Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who then names members of Parliament (MPs) to seats on his National Executive Council (Cabinet). MPs who would prefer another prime minister form the Opposition.

There are 109 elected members of Parliament who serve for a fixed term of five years. Each of the twenty provinces has one person to represent the province in the National Parliament. (The NCD is treated like a province.) These 20 provincial members are sometimes called regional members. Eighty-nine members each represent a smaller sub-division of the provincial areas, called the open electorate. If a member dies or leaves office for other reasons, a replacement is elected in a special by-election. There is a provision in the Constitution which allows up to three nominated members to be appointed by the Parliament. This provision has yet to be used.

A new Parliament's first actions are to elect a Speaker and then a Prime Minister. Both of them are elected by a simple majority of those voting. The Speaker is elected by secret ballot. The Prime Minister is elected by open vote so the winner and the public will know who his supporters are.

The schedule of parliamentary sittings is set by the Prime Minister. The budget for the next year is presented, and usually adopted, during the November sitting. Cabinet and parliamentary committees meet between sittings of Parliament. The committees are small groups which study in detail matters requiring action by Parliament. The most powerful committees are the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.

Because they represent the grassroots people, every MP has a right to propose laws and to take part in Parliament's debates. However, so-called member's bills have little chance of becoming laws unless Cabinet supports them. It is illegal to prevent MPs from attending meetings of Parliament or from taking part in votes. To encourage debate, MPs have special privileges of free speech on matters being discussed by Parliament or its committees. They may not be sued for compensation if what they do or say is incorrect or causes harm to people or property. All MPs are eligible to serve as Cabinet ministers or as members of committees.

MPs may be removed from office for violation of the Leadership Code. They automatically cease to be members if they are convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to prison for more than 9 months. They also cease to be members if they become citizens of another country or become mentally ill.

PNG has a history of changes in government coalitions and leadership from within parliament during the 5-year intervals between national elections. New governments are protected by law from votes of no confidence for the first 18 months of their incumbency, and no votes of no confidence may be moved in the 12 months preceding a national election. In an effort to create greater stability by reducing incessant votes of no confidence, the Integrity of Political Parties Act was passed in 1999, forbidding members of each party in parliament from shifting loyalty to another party.

In 2003, the electoral system was changed to limited preferential voting, which has begun to encourage politicians to strike alliances and to be responsive to constituent concerns once elected. The new system was used in the 2007 national general elections. However, 53 election petitions disputing returns were registered with the courts. Allegations included bribery, intimidation, block voting, and undue influence.

To maintain confidence in the political system the government in 2013 legislated to protect governments from no confidence motions for the first 30 months of a five-year term (up from 18 months). Once this period expires a successful no-confidence motion can then elect an alternative Prime Minister to form a new government without a need for a national election.

The Executive Branch decides on questions of policy and directions for PNG. In the national government, the National Executive Council (Cabinet) is made up of the Ministers assisted by the National Public Service. In the provincial government, the Executive Branch is the Provincial Executive Council assisted by the Provincial Public Service.

Some of the elected members of a government become Ministers. They form the Cabinet (National Executive Council) which is presided over by the Prime Minister. The National Executive meets regularly at least once a month. The NEC plans everything in advance and effectively leads the Parliament. The government has one MP who is appointed as the Government "Whip" whose duty is to see that all MPs are present in the Parliament. Each Minister controls one of the Public Service departments and is responsible to Parliament for the work of his department.

The Judicial Branch is an independent body which protects the basic rights as stated in the Constitution. The Judiciary solves conflicts and punishes law breakers. It works through the national, supreme, district and local courts in the national government and the village courts in the provincial government. It interprets (works out) and enforces the constitutional rules and develops the body of legal rules, expanding on the PNG laws to cover any new situations.

The legal system is based on English common law and has adopted a number of Australian and English laws. PNG's independent judiciary comprises the Supreme Court, the National Court, and local and village courts. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal and has an inherent power to review all judicial acts of the National Court, which in turn has the power to review any exercise of judicial authority.

The law provides for a presumption of innocence and due process, including a public trial, and the court system generally enforced these provisions. The country does not have a jury system. Judges conduct trials and render verdicts. Defendants have the right to an attorney, to be informed promptly and in detail of charges against them, and not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt. The Public Solicitor’s Office provides legal counsel for those accused of “serious offenses” (charges for which a sentence of two years or more is the norm) who are unable to afford counsel. Defendants and their attorneys may confront witnesses, present evidence, access government-held evidence, plead cases, and appeal convictions. The law extends these rights to all citizens. The shortage of judges created delays in both the trial process and the rendering of decisions.

There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters from which individuals and organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations. District courts may order “good behavior bonds,” commonly called “protection orders,” in addition to ordering that compensation be paid for violations of human rights. Courts had difficulty enforcing judgments. In addition largely unregulated village courts adjudicated many human rights matters. Village and district courts often hesitated to interfere directly in domestic matters. Village courts regularly ordered payment of compensation to an abused spouse’s family in cases of domestic abuse rather than issuing an order to detain and potentially charge the alleged offender.

A provincial government system was introduced in 1976 when nineteen provinces and a separate national capital district were formed, each with a provincial assembly. Many of these were soon suspended for mismanagement or corruption, so, in 1995, as a result of the Constitutional Review Commission (the Micah Commission), the national parliament moved to radically modify the system. Now, provincial assemblies comprise national members from each province, including a governor. There are also over 150 local councils.

On Bougainville Island, a 10-year rebellion was halted by a truce in 1997 and a permanent cease-fire was signed in April 1998. A peace agreement between the Government and excombatants was signed in August 2001. Under the eyes of a regional peace-monitoring force and a UN observer mission, the government and provincial leaders established an interim administration and made significant progress toward complete surrender/destruction of weapons. A constitution was drafted in 2004 and provincial government elections were held in May 2005. The elections were deemed to be free and fair by international observers. Joseph Kabui was elected to serve as the first president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Tribal cultures are extremely complex and may appear unusual however, people may be quite open to new technology. Members of tribal communities often identify strongly as a member of their tribe, rather than a citizen of their country. Tribal loyalties are strong. Members are obliged to support other tribal members to the extent of protecting them from the law enforcement or military personnel.

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Page last modified: 21-12-2016 19:24:17 ZULU