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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

No-Confidence Vote Grace Period Passes First Vote In PNG
PM O’Neill says extension does not exempt him from criticism

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 28, 2012) – Both the Government and Opposition united as one to give unanimous support to extend the grace period for votes of no confidence from 18 to 30 months with a vote 102-0 yesterday, in what has been described as an historic and unprecedented occasion.

As this is a constitutional amendment the second vote, which will take place after two months, is expected on February 5, 2013, when Parliament resumes after the festive season.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who introduced the Bill in the morning to amend Section 145 of the Constitution on the Vote of No Confidence, got approval from the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Matters before it was brought forward for debate in the afternoon.

Mr. O’Neill in his statement to Parliament said since section 145 was first used successfully in March 1980, the country has endured a period of great instability, because of the constant threat of change of government within 18 months grace period.

"Constant shifting of loyalties in Parliament meant governments were planning for survival, rather than implementing policies to bring real change for our people," he told Parliament.

"It’s no wonder our health and social indicators have been in decline, and infrastructure like roads and bridges and ports are in appalling state, our schools and education facilities run down. We cannot allow this to continue."

He said the government of Sir Michael Somare between 2002 and 2007 was the only government that served its full term, capitalizing on the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates enacted in 2001.

"The Integrity Law provided a stable political environment for the government of Grand Chief (Somare) to turn economic tides around, the benefits of which we continue to enjoy today," Mr. O’Neill said.

"This record no doubt demonstrates to us what we can achieve if we give continuity and stability to government."

The Prime Minister said the Supreme Court in 2010 ruled much of the Integrity Law as unconstitutional, and there is a real danger the nation may slide back to the pre-OLLIPAC days of instability that undermined potential and deterred investors.

"This amendment to the Constitution gives us the opportunity to secure this stability so that the policies and development that we have unveiled for our government can be fully implemented," Mr. O’Neill said.

"Let me be very clear here. This legislation does not remove the provision for a vote of no confidence.

"It does [not] give me cover, or act as a shield, for me as Prime Minister. If I do not deliver, I will be subjected to a vote of no confidence after 30 months. At least that is sufficient time for Parliament to make a judgment on my performance, and that of the Government I lead.

"The nation stands at a cross road today. The future is very promising. But the challenge to rebuild what we have squandered rests with us. We cannot point finger or blame anyone," Mr. O’Neill said.

Opposition leader Belden Namah threw his support and that of the Opposition to support the amendment.

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