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Changes to election laws will deprive rights

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PROPOSED changes to the election laws will deprive Papua New Guineans of their democratic rights, Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) says.
TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens said his organisation saw the proposals as undermining the principle of equality for all.
The National Executive Council recently approved three major changes to the laws affecting election candidates – nomination fees, campaign period and election petition costs.
“They will severely reduce the rights of citizens to participate in future elections,” Stephens said.
He said concerns were expressed nationwide at the news of increasing the election nomination fee for intending candidates from K1,000 to K10,000.
“The laws of PNG must not be available only to those with cash, we must protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their access to cash,” he said.
“The right to stand for public office is enshrined in Section 50 of the Constitution and should be protected so as to ensure equal participation in our democracy. Previous governments’ attempts at increasing the fees were rightly challenged as being unconstitutional.”
Stephens said that TIPNG was particularly concerned by the proposal to impose a K20,000 fee for filing election petitions.
“This creates a barrier for citizens wishing to demand justice in during elections, “When a complaint is lodged, the law enforcement agencies should be obliged to respond. If the agencies find that the complaint is based on reasonable evidence, it should be mandatory that they take action.
“If the complaint is frivolous, the agencies are obliged to make impartial decisions. It is disrespectful of our legal system to suggest that officers of the law are not able to identify cases without merit and that they should only respond to complainants who are able to lodge an enormous fee with their complaints.”

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