Proper scrutiny needed for laws

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday July 19th, 2013

 WHEN in 1995 Parliament passed the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments, it was passed in the full knowledge that there were no fewer than 69 defects in the law.

The excuse then was that the matter was pressing, pass the law and sort out the defects in amendments later.

There has been no amendments done to correct defects since, but be sure that there will come a day when the law is challenged on the basis of one of these defects and the case will be won by the petitioner or complainant.

Parliament ought never to pass any law without giving it the best scrutiny it possibly can.

When in 2001 Parliament passed the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates, it did so with an absolute majority.

Not long after MPs who had passed the law without a whimper suddenly wanted to challenge  its validity and constitutionality in court.

As it turned out, that particular law was found to be defective and certain sections of it were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, opening the door to fluid politics again in PNG.

 In May 2004, an agreement called the Enhanced Cooperation Programme was rushed through Parliament without so much as a debate. 

Parliament passed the agreement in usual fashion, with an absolute majority and without debate on an important issue which would see Australian Federal Police and senior civil servants employed in PNG.

Again the court ruled the agreement broke the national Constitution in various places. 

Back went the Australians and there are now efforts to bring them back under a revised programme.

All the changes to the Constitution during the short period when O’Neill dethroned Somare in 2011 have been reversed again on the basis that everyone recognised the changes were wrong.

Issues have been raised about the constitutional validity of the agreement to have Australians process their asylum seekers on Manus Island. 

Chances are that this agreement also contradicts the Constitution and therefore is not legally enforceable.

This week only three members chose to vote against the first reading of the proposed bill to amend sections 124 and 145 of the Constitution. 

Eighty seven members were all for the proposed laws. 

We shall wait and see if any of these 87 have any change of mind at some time in the future.

Laws can be made and unmade but let it not be done so frequently or they lose their authority.

To our mind, MPs do not seem to have taken their most important roles as legislators seriously enough. 

There are hardly any debates on legislations that are introduced on the floor of Parliament. 

More time is spent debating delivery of goods and services or lack of it than on legislations. 

This is contributing directly to substandard legislations being passed or those that are good for certain interest groups.

It is obvious members are not thinking for themselves.

Like sheep, they are willing to be directed by one or two shepherds. 

A typical scene prior to presentation of a Bill on the floor of Parliament is for there to be a government caucus called early in the morning. 

Somebody informs members that an important law is about to be introduced, reads out some pertinent points about the proposed law, the bell rings and everybody takes his or her seat in Parliament. 

When the Bill is presented all rise or say “ayes”.

Laws must be given the scrutiny they deserve. 

They must be relevant now and into the future.

They must stand the test of time. To pass a law without much thought given to it but that it can be changed if need be in future is stupid and demeans the very essence of the legislature. 

It tells us our leaders are not mature or strong enough to speak their mind. 

It tells us that they are most probably being induced into giving their support without question.