O'Neill's assurances

IN AN address to the nation, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has confirmed the election will run as scheduled mid-year and countered criticism of judicial conduct laws which were unexpectedly passed last week.
O'Neill's assurances O'Neill's assurances O'Neill's assurances O'Neill's assurances O'Neill's assurances

"It is my pleasure to assure the nation - to assure all the citizens of Papua New Guinea, that the 2012 National General Elections will not be deferred for purposes of political expediency," O'Neill said.

"Elections this year will go ahead as scheduled with the issuing of election writs on April 27 - that's next month - and for polling to commence in June."

On the recently passed judicial conduct bill, which was passed in days instead of the months it normally takes for constitutional amendment laws, O'Neill said it must not be seen as a law which will weaken and erode the independence of the judiciary.

"This new law basically defines and imposes clarity on judicial behaviour that the wider community or affected parties in lawsuits may consider or perceive as biased," the PM said.

"That law is not draconian and does not erode the impartiality of the judges as voiced by critics, including the usual two or three publicity-seeking members of the PNG Law Society.

"It must be pointed out that countries such as Australia, India, Canada and other Commonwealth nations, have similar legislations or ethical standards to scrutinise judicial conduct and behaviour. We are not alone here."

O'Neill also took the opportunity to outline his government's policies ahead of the election, which most recently include repairing and maintaining the Highlands Highway.

"Our government has no secret and sinister agenda.

"We have no secret plans to make laws that will weaken our nation's democratic institutions and processes. So far, we have been very transparent and accountable to our people about the management of their country.

"We simply want to revamp dysfunctional institutions of state and turn them into becoming proactive in the delivery and implementation of gainful national development."

Despite O'Neill's comments, a legal challenge to the judicial conduct bill is expected.

Protesting University of PNG students presented a petition against the bill to the government on Friday.

In February, Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah said the election should be deferred by 12 months.

O'Neill's full address can be downloaded under related links and downloads to the right of your screen.

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