‘Return of writs cannot be extended’: PNG Secretary for Justice

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Any extension beyond the fifth anniversary of the date fixed for the return of the writs for the previous general election would be in violation of section 105 of the Papua New Guinea Constitution.

A four-man Supreme Court in 2017 (SC1814) recognised this limitation to a certain extent, in that they all unanimously in answering question seven which reads “Whether the seven days fixed for Parliament to convene under Section 124 (1) of the Constitution, can be extended under Schedule 1.16 of the Constitution in circumstances where the remaining electorates in a general election have not been declared failed, but are still continuing their counting? The bench answered the question with a “No”.

In the 2017 Constitutional reference filed by the Ombudsman Commission there were a total of 15 questions posed.

Secretary for Justice Dr Eric Kwa in a statement on Friday said the decision was not taken lightly given the constitutional implications of the extension of the date for the return of writs.

But this decision was reached after the Electoral Commissioner had sought advice from the Inter-Agency Elections Committee (IDEC), the Office of the State Solicitor and the Secretary for Justice.

The decision was based on the Supreme Court decision in 2017 which considered this very question.

“Let me assure the people of our beautiful country that according to our view, the decision of the Electoral Commissioner to extend the date for the return of writs for Friday 05 August 2022, is valid and according to the existing law.

State Solicitor Daniel Rolpagarea had earlier advised that the date fixed for the return of the writs on the 29th of July, 2022 cannot be extended.

The Electoral Commissioner indeed does have powers under the Organic Law to extend, but that power is not unfettered and is limited by the mandatory requirement imposed by section 105 of the Constitution.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS