PNG Supreme Court to rule whether 11th Parliament sitting legal


Papua New Guineans have knocked out 35 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the 111-seat 10th Parliament in the just concluded General Election 2022 (GE22).

They have sent 50 new faces (including seats vacated by the seven deaths of incumbents and the seven new seats) to the expanded Papua New Guinea (PNG) 118-seat 11th Parliament.

North Bougainville MP late William Nakin, the 10th MP to die in office, who passed away just before counting, has been declared the winner. The seat is expected to be declared vacant and the by-election process to start to elect a new MP.

In the process, seven cabinet ministers lost their jobs, 10 Independents were victorious (in the last GE17 also 10).

The Independents included two rugby league personalities. GE22 also saw the return of two women MPs in Parliament, after none were elected in the last GE. In GE12, a record three women MPs were elected into the 9th Parliament.

Since Independence and after nine GEs (including 2017), only nine women made it to Parliament.

GE22 saw a total of 13 parties winning at least one seat each (eight in GE17).

In GE17, 19 parties won seats but 24 won in GE22.

Five seats (National Capital District Regional, Madang Provincial, Chimbu Provincial, Southern Highlands Provincial and Enga’s Lagaip) have yet to be declared.

PNG’s GEs remain as violent as ever – GE22-related violence had claimed the lives of 57 Papua New Guineans since 20 May.

Arguably, the biggest upset in GE22 was Davis Madava Steven (former deputy prime minister and People’s National Congress deputy leader or former prime minister Peter O’Neill’s No. 2) who was edged out by Jimmy Maladina in Milne Bay’s Esa’ala.

Maladina is a key witness in the multi-billion-Kina UBS loan Commission of Inquiry and was also once a close associate of O’Neill.

Tari-Pori MP James Marape, elected by 97 Parliamentarians (out of 105 present in Parliament) as prime minister last Tuesday, formed a five-member interim cabinet the following day to govern the country.

However, post-GE22 political developments and the outcome of election petitions that are expected to be filed by losing candidates are expected to be fiery.

A GE22 legal bombshell looms for Papua New Guineans and PNG – the legality of the maiden sitting of the 11th Parliament.

O’Neill, Ialibu-Pangia MP, failed in his application to stop the sitting but a three-panel Supreme Court bench ruled that whether or not the sitting was legal, would be dealt with in the substantive matter.

And that is O’Neill’s application to the Supreme Court to determine the legality of the sitting.

The Supreme Court last Tuesday had upheld the National’s Court’s decision to reject O’Neill’s application to stop the sitting.

A three-man bench panel, comprising Justices Les-Gavara-Nanu, Collin Makail and Elenas Batari ruled that the sitting of Parliament had already begun and could not be stopped.

Justice Gavara-Nanu said whether or not the sitting was legal, would be dealt with in the substantive matter.

The matter arose following the Electoral Commission’s extension of the return of GE22 writs from 22 July to 29 July, 05 August and 12 August.

The EC had acknowledged that as at 4pm 05 August, 33 seats had yet to return their writs.

However, the MPs, whose writs were returned after the deadline were allowed into the sitting.

And top lawyers had differing views on the legality of the extension of deadlines for the return of GE22 writs. PNG Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai said Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae had consented to the extension of deadlines.

The power to extend the deadline beyond July 29 is being contested under the the Organic Law on the National and Local-Level Government Elections and the Constitution (Sections 105, 126, Schedule 1.2, 1.16 of the Constitution and Sections 80 and 177 of the Organic Law on the National and Local-level Government Elections).

On 29 July, Justice Department secretary and Attorney-General Dr Eric Kwa said Sinai’s decision to change the date for the return of writs was valid and according to the existing law.