O’Neill: Regional seats will remain

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The National, Wednesday 15th Febuary 2012


ALL provincial electorates will remain and voters will still be able to elect their governors during this year’s election, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told parliament.

He gave the assurance during question time and urged all members to be available to ensure legislative amendments were made to retain the provincial seats.

Morobe Governor Luther Wenge had asked whether the prime minister was aware that amendments made in 2006 meant that provincial seats would cease to exist after the 2012 election.

Wenge said there was a constitutional amendment on the
notice paper to retain the regional seats.

"If this law is not passed by parliament, what is your view and what is the future of regional seats?" Wenge said.

O’Neill said in 2006, a wrong bill was passed to eliminate the regional seats but parliament amended that Act, giving certain powers to the prime minister to advise the head of state to retain the regional seats.

"I do not wish to exercise that provision because we have Notice No.211 and I urge all members of parliament to be present to vote on the bill," O’Neill said.

The regional seat bill is one of three major laws the government would like to pass during this session.

The others were the reduction in the number of open seats and the women’s bill.

"We have this opportunity to make these changes before we go back to the election," he said.

In a statement issued later, O’Neill said provincial governments played an important role as they provided the majority of services to the villages.

"Without doubt, provincial electorates are here to stay well beyond this election," he said.