Extension of return of writs date unconstitutional: Former PNG Chief Justice

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The two-week extension on the return of writs date in Papua New Guinea has been knocked as unconstitutional.

A former Chief Justice, Sir Arnold Amet, said that there are no provisions in the Constitution for any extension of writs beyond the fifth anniversary of the date fixed for the return of the writs, which is today – 29 July.

He said also that there are no constitutional provisions for a caretaker government to continue beyond this date.

Sir Arnold’s stance comes as uncertainty surrounds the extension of the deadline for return of writs to 12 August.

The extension sought by Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai was granted by Governor General Sir Bob Dadae this week because electoral officials in more than half of the country’s 118 electorates have yet to complete counting and declare members of the new Parliament.

Government House has indicated the instrument for gazettal of the extension was signed on Tuesday, but by Thursday there was no formal notice of this gazettal.

According to Secretary for Department of Justice and Attorney General Dr Eric Kwa the fifth anniversary for the 10th Parliament falls today – 29 July. .

Said Sir Arnold: “And so if 29 July, 2022 is the date originally fixed for the return of the writs, as being nearly as may reasonably be to the fifth anniversary of the date fixed for the return of the writs for the previous general election, which according to the 2017 calendar is July 28, then that is in sufficient compliance with the Constitution and Organic Law.

“The originally scheduled time and date for the calling of the first meeting of Parliament pursuant to the Constitution section 124 (1) and the Organic Law on Calling of Parliament for Thursday 04 August 2022 was consistent with the ‘anniversary of the term of Parliament’.

“The extension of date for the return of writs to 12 August 2022, to now extend the time for the return of the writs, as advised by the Head of State, acting on advice of the Electoral Commission, would now require the time and date to be fixed for the first meeting of Parliament to be ‘not more than seven days’ after 12 August 2022, which if not already fixed and advised shall be Thursday 18 August 2022.”

Sir Arnold said the potential constitutional implications of this extension were that it:

– Took the date fixed for the return of the writs to beyond the “as nearly as may reasonably be to the fifth anniversary of the date fixed for the return of the writs for the previous general election” by 15 days.

– Took the term of office of the current members of Parliament, also 15 days, beyond the normal term of office of five years.

– Extended the life of the current term of Parliament beyond the five years by 15 days to the return of writs and 21 days to the calling of the first meeting of Parliament, possibly on 18 August 2022.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS