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Papua New Guinea: Fundamental Rights Questioned

Transparency International (PNG) Inc today questioned moves to restrict entrance to the PNG Parliament even more. The Speaker Mr. Jeffrey Nape earlier this week announced that there were to be restrictions on entry to Parliament House along with other security measures he intended to introduce. Mr. Nape said that the public would be restricted to entry to Parliament to two days a week, visitors had to be cleared for entry by the "authorities" and special arrangements made on sitting days. Dress codes would also be introduced.

The fundamental right of all citizens in a Westminister style democracy is to be able to visit and observe the proceedings of the Parliament. This was first eroded by the concept of fencing the grounds and making everyone report to a security guard and will now be further restricted. The purpose of having public access is to ensure that the public at least knows what their representatives are saying in Parliament and this cannot be kept secret. Closing off the parliament would mean that ordinary citizens may never know what their representatives are saying or even if they bother to attend the sessions.

"These restrictions run counter to the very basis of democracy" said Mike Manning, Chairman of TI (PNG) "every time the government restricts the access of people to information, transparency is reduced and the opportunity for corrupt and dishonest practices is increased".

The proposed new dress codes for visitors would discriminate against ordinary Papua New Guineans, many of whom would not own a tie and would not necessarily be able to dress according to the Speaker's standards. "Ordinary Papua New Guineans deserve the same basic human rights as the rich and the Speaker has to be careful that he is not excluding the very people who should be allowed to have access to see how their Parliament functions" said Mr. Manning.

TI (PNG) also questioned the proposal to station mobile squad police around the Parliament. Democracy relies on the absence of force and the introduction of police guards will inevitably discourage families and their young from visiting the seat of their government. The elite will become even more divorced from the people they are supposed to represent and the trend for members of Parliament to be isolated from the people in their electorates will be accelerated.

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Jeff Lovitt
Tel: +49-30-3438 2045
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Transparency International Papua New Guinea (PNG) INC
Phone: 320 2182/88 Fax: 320 2189