Former student leader weighs in

Weekender
ELECTION

If it appears to Parliament that a judge has failed to disqualify himself pursuant to Subsection (1) or has influenced a proceeding contrary to Subsection (1), Parliament by way of a motion may refer the judge concerned to the head of state to appoint a tribunal to investigate the breach of Subsection (1) and provide a report to Parliament or may refer the matter to another authority for an appropriate course of action.

Addressing a community gathering in the electorate.

By ALPHONSE BARIASI
THE above subsection was possibly one of the dubious provisions in the hastily passed and repealed Judicial Conduct Act of 2012.
The law could be viewed now as an unfortunate by-product of the 2011 political impasse during which two opposing governments were claiming legitimacy.
The passage of the law was slammed by a section of the population as a blatant attempt to vest control of the judiciary on the executive government.
It was feared that such a law would erode the judiciary’s independence which it had enjoyed since the formation of the state.
Proponents argued that it was a move well within reason to ensure integrity and impartiality in the judiciary and among individual judges.
The act triggered a public outcry and university students boycotted classes in protest. Some suffered serious injures in ensuing confrontations with Port Moresby police.
Emmanuel Isaac was president of the University of PNG students’ representative council then and the onus fell squarely on him to lead the students in protests. The university administration however, wanted no part of it and penalised Isaac and his cohorts.
As events turned out, the protests and public crtiticism eventually led to the revocation of the Judicial Conduct Act.
Flip a few pages of history from ‘page’ 2012 to ‘page 2021 and Emmanuel Isaac, now a thriving private lawyer, nominates to vie for the Moresby North West seat left vacant by the passing of iconic reformist former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta.
The winner of this by-election, which is the last for this cycle of parliament, will have until next April to prove his worth before facing the voters again in next year’s general election.
Isaac believes those 12 months in PNG politics is a long time. Much can happen in that time, for good or otherwise depending on who occupies a seat of power.
He says he is a typical mangi Mosbi, raised and educated in the electorate and has worked all his life in capital.
As a lad in primary school, he was destined to be a leader. He headed school representative councils in high school and later on at the University of PNG while undertaking a law degree.
The 32-year-old principal of Emmanuel Lawyers completed primary education at Boreboa Primary School in Waigani in 2004.
Four years later he completed Grade 12 at Gerehu Secondary School and entered the University of PNG the following year.
He graduated with a degree in law with honours in April 2013 followed by a six month-training for the bar at the Legal Training Institute.
“I have practiced as a lawyer for over seven years and going into the eighth. At present, I am a private practitioner.
Even prior to admission as a lawyer, Isaac was exposed to the courts for various reasons including seeking the court’s help to compel UPNG to allow him to graduation after the student disciplinary council cited him for allegedly leading an illegal student strike in 2012 as the then UPNG SRC president.
“In my entire student life, I was a leader including SCR president (head boy) of Gerehu Secondary School 2008 and UPNG SRC president in 2012.
“Apart from school, I actively participated in sports particularly rugby league and church as lead vocal singer as well as a base guitarist. One can say, I had a balanced life.”

The candidate among a typically large field in a PNG election.

Timing
The youthful lawyer has joined the race against older, more experienced candidates and he accepts that some electors may question or doubt his candidacy.
He says young leaders have a lot more stamina and drive to lead and change the destiny of an electorate or nation.
Historical leaders like David, Gideon, Joseph, Jesus and Alexander were young in the eyes of the world but have made a huge imprint on ancient and modern history. Isaac believes in his heart this is the moment to dive into politics with all he has.
“It’s human nature and I expect to be doubted and questioned. Even Jesus Christ was doubted by one of his inner cycle disciples, the cynical Thomas, although he was repeatedly made aware of the future event in the past.
“Some will say, I am an inexperienced youth. Others might wish to know what contributions I have made in serving the people in the past.
“Such questions can best be answered with reference to my past actions as a student and a lawyer and more so by what I stand for now, as I always have before,” he said.
“I am contesting this election firstly because I love my country and I love serving the people. It is my make-up and nature. I cannot and will never enjoy my life as long as the people continue to suffer and the nation is sick with corruption, greed and selfishness.
“If I had no love for my country or no interest in the welfare and affairs of the people, I would not be wasting my time in contesting any election instead of enjoying a peaceful private life with my family.
“Entering politics is no easy task and I signed up for it out of love for my people and the country.
“I have always been a student leader ever since the day I started school, not by coincidence but because students in their wisdom saw that I had to heart to do that extra thing to serve their interest and to sacrifice my own personal interest and time to attend to their needs.

Student activism
“As a student leader in 2012 in the capacity of the UPNG SCR president, along with fellow like-minded student leaders of that time including Dicky Lao, Medlyn John and Ferdinand Amaituk, fiercely supported by influential students in the likes of Nou Vada, Epeo Minok, Laken Lepatu, Bobby Yupi and current Eastern Highlands Governor Peter Numu and Jacinta Naphal Kare, risked our lives and our education to boycott classes and to take to the streets of Port Moresby to fight against the Government’s introduction and the Parliament’s passage of a dictatorial law.
“For those who don’t know, if the Judicial Conduct Act was not challenged by the students and haf remained in effect, the judiciary that we love would have been reduced to a puppet at the whim of the Government of the day.
“That is the possibility that we had to stand against sacrificing our future,” Isaac pointed out.
Looking back, he described the class boycotts and protests as a daring move, especially by the student leadership then.
As events would later unfold, the student boycott was not authorised by the UPNG administration. That meant that as the student leader Isaac risked even being blacklisted.
“The risk of being shot at by police and other security personnel was real and high at that time with two prime ministers, the late Sir Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill; one appointed by Parliament and the other by the high court.”
Each of the two leaders had appointed opposing police commissioners and army commanders.
As the leader of the students, I paid the price, being penalised by UPNG and had to run to court to salvage my education. I received no reward or compensation for the trouble I went through in fighting for my country and people’s common good.
“I am standing because this country needs men and women who can sacrifice their own interests for the nation and others. I am one of those who can give up my own life and interest for the people when it matters the most.
“Might I not add the amount of money offered by opposing factions of government that I had to turn down? The students who were with me at that time will know how much was offered who.”

Free legal aid
As a lawyer, Isaac says he has forgone hundreds of thousands of kina in giving free legal aid to the needy.
“I have done that before even conceiving any idea to contest an election.”
One of his clients who had benefited from the free legal assistance was the famous Beltman, the young woman dragged by police in the streets of Port Moresby, to the people of Hohola 1 and 3 who suffered under an unprofessional police raid.
“There are many more clients both present and former, who can attest to my heart for them.”
“I had no political intention in serving. The help that I gave and sacrifices that I made were genuine. Some have gone out to help because they had political interests.

Smart people, smart choices
He is simply calling on voters to be smart and choose well in the by-election.
The question was put to the candidate: It is only 12 months to the next general election so why not wait for that?
In PNG politics 12 months is a very long time and a lot of things can happen, a lot of money can be misused even, Isaac points out.
“There is a lot of unused money for the electorate at stake here. If we allow the wrong persons to get into office there is a very real danger of them using these funds for their own ends and the electorate will continue to miss out on developments that can be achieved through the proper and equitable use of the money.
“Amongst the candidates, I am sure there are some like myself who would really like to serve the people in a meaningful way. But there are some real opportunists contesting for various reasons.
“The people should scrutinise each of the candidates to ascertain who they had served in their private lives. Do not mention help or gifts given for political favours.
“It is for the people to distinguish, identify and choose. The people will live with the consequences of their choices.
For him it is leadership that matters and not where one comes from.
A final word from the candidate: “People must find leadership qualities in the person they elect. Whether it is me or another, please choose a leader, not a politician or an opportunist.”
Isaac is candidate 34 in a large field of 42. The lone woman contender is former Department of Community Develpment, Youth and Religion Secretary Anna Kavana Bais who is running under a People’s Party ticket.
More than half of the candidates are running as independents.
National pandemic emergency restrictions have pushed the by-election back a bit and as per the revised timetable, voting will begin on June 1.

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