Hats off to Wenge and company

Editorial, Normal

The National – Wednesday, December 15, 2010

IN the excitement of the recent changes at the top of the political echelon, let us not overlook a tremendous victory in the name of the people and the constitution.
In a front-page editorial the day after the election of the governor-general in June, The National stated that the action was unconstitutional and that it would be thrown out of court were it to be taken to the judiciary.
The court reference was duly made and our opinion has been upheld by unanimous decision of a five-judge Supreme Court bench last Friday.
Once again, the courts have found our parliament to have acted in breach of the constitution.
Once again, the shameful fact must be acknowledged that this parliament, which is the chief legislative assembly of the state, is breaking the principle law instead of making good laws which is its principle job.
We should like to point to an individual who has been a constant in all these legal undertakings in support of the constitution, a man who was still in law school at the University of PNG while the constitution was framed and passed into law in 1975.
Morobe Governor Luther Wenge might be many things to many people but he, today, emerges as a true champion of the constitution.
He has taken up more Supreme Court references challenging the validity and constitutionality of acts by parliament or the executive government than any other leader and won every single one of those court references.
Standing stoutly behind him through all this has been his Morobe provincial executive council, whose blessing he has sought and gained each time for these acts which must cost the Morobe government quite a hefty sum.
To our knowledge, Wenge has gone to court to challenge the validity of the value added tax (VAT), introduced in 1989, and got the Supreme Court to agree with him that the law was unconstitutional and deprived a person of money.
The government eventually had to reach a political compromise with the governor over the issue and renamed VAT the goods and services tax, but it would appear the illegal nature of the tax system remains as it has not been adequately addressed.
Wenge then challenged the government’s rushed enhanced cooperation programme (ECP) with Australia under which Australians were to be employed in certain institutions in PNG including the police force with immunity and imported goods, needed for their work, free of duty and several other concessions which the governor alleged were repugnant and unconstitutional.
Again, Wenge won and ECP was shelved.
Not to be outdone, the government has continued some of the ECP programmes such as engaging advisers and consultants but, under what conditions, it is uncertain.
Wenge, again, took the government and the prime minister to task for leaving the office of the deputy prime minister vacant for a long time.
He also won that case.
He challenged and won the government’s adoption of the preferential voting system and another on the state’s neglect of the Buimo prison facility.
It might appear to some that Wenge is a nuisance and out to make mischief out of government actions and laws.
Actually, he is performing a superb job as a legislator and guardian of the constitution and the laws of the country in a land that is quite bereft of men his calibre.
PNG needs more court challenges to strengthen the constitution and the laws, and to remind the law makers that laws and policies cannot be made for their sake or for political expediency and convenience.
Polices and laws must be made in keeping with the constitution and the other laws of the country.
They must be relevant and, above all, good for the people of the land.
There are constant reminders on many platforms about the good work performed by the great fathers who drafted the constitution, and who eventually gained independence for PNG, but space must be sparred for man like Wenge and Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya (who challenged and won the case against the integrity law) who continue the task today, to be ever vigilant that laws, systems and processes are strengthened, not weakened, and that the rights of our people are protected.
Such men are few and far in between. We need more of them.