Kidu is optimistic about bill

National, Normal

The National, Monday 28th November 2011

PAPUA New Guinea’s only female MP, Dame Carol Kidu, says she is cautiously optimistic women will run in the 2012 election, but fears the move could be swamped by the Supreme Court’s upcoming verdict on the government’s legitimacy.
PNG’s parliament last week passed the Equality and Participation Bill, a change to the Constitution guaranteeing women up to 22 seats in the parliament after the June 2012 election. However, a “nuts and bolts” law defining boundaries for the new electorates has yet to pass.
While he has given his firm commitment to the passage of the boundaries law, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill adjourned parliament last Friday to Dec 6, three days before the Supreme Court will rule on the legitimacy of his election in August.
The surprise adjournment postpones the national budget, due two weeks ago.
Dame Carol said O’Neill told her the law would be introduced on Dec 6, although the potential political fallout from the court decision on Dec 9 could come at the expense of the women’s electorates.
“The political dynamics are going to become quite strange over the next few weeks with the court decision, and it needs two passages,” she said yesterday.
“I was expecting it to happen this week. I asked the PM, he said he would put it through on the sixth.
“I am cautiously optimistic.”
The Dec 9 decision overshadows every aspect of PNG’s political class because of its potential to reinstate the former government of Sir Michael Somare.
Dame Carol said passing the required nuts and bolts law to make concrete Wednesday’s historic vote could pose a logistical challenge, with the election due in June.
“The problem is it requires two votes,” she said, referring to the requirement for the bill to be given a first and second reading on separate days.
The Queenland-born, 15-year veteran of PNG’s parliament said she was philosophical about the passage of last week’s enabling legislation.
With the December decision and election so close and now only three scheduled sitting days before parliament lifts until March, MPs were trying to put notches in their political belt.
“There are people voting for it that I know don’t want it,” Dame Carol said.
“There are people on my side … there are people on the government side who were so against it, but now it’s politically convenient.” – AAP