Speaker declares Pomio seat vacant

Main Stories, National

The National, Wednesday 23rd November 2011

SPEAKER Jeffery Nape has disqualified Pomio MP Paul Tiensten for missing three consecutive sittings of Parliament.
In a drama played out in front of a packed public gallery in the country’s house of representatives yesterday, Nape told Tiensten that he had missed the sittings on Aug 9, Sept 6 and Sept 20. He was disqualified under section 104 (2) (d) of the Constitution.
Tiensten, taken by surprise along with his political colleagues by the decision, was also obviously disappointed and decided to defy the order to leave the parliamentary chambers. 
He remained in his seat despite an order by Nape to the sergeant-at-arms to remove the MP.
Tiensten, the former minister for national planning and monitoring, plans to challenge Nape’s decision in court shortly.
He is the second MP to be disqualified by Nape in the past two months. The first was Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, the founding father of the nation and one of the longest serving parliamentarians in the Commonwealth.
Tiensten went to Australia after the government-appointed Task Force Sweep wanted him for questioning over the payment of a K10 million subsidy to Rabaul businessman Eremas Wartoto to fund his airline Travel Air.
However, he returned to the country last week and was immediately arrested and charged.
He is on a K5,000 bail.
Tiensten denied he had missed three sittings.
“As far as I call recall I have only missed two – on Sept 6 and Sept 20. If the speaker was talking about the Aug 9 sitting, then it is the continuation of the Aug 2 sitting which I attended,” he said.
His colleagues in the opposition benches described Nape’s decision as “cheap politics”, saying  what Nape did was in serious breach of the Constitution and the Standing Orders.
Former attorney-general Sir Arnold Amet said the matter was absolutely prejudicial as a related matter was pending in the Supreme Court.
It was the Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution on the legality of the election of Peter O’Neill as prime minister and the disqualification of Sir Michael Somare by Nape.
He said the matter could not be interpreted and applied even by
the speaker or parliament.
Sir Arnold also said Tiensten was not given a fair hearing on why he was “absent”.
In the packed public gallery, women who had come to hear the introduction of the Bill to reserve 25 seats for them in the House went away disappointed after the short sitting dealt with other matters including Tiensten’s disqualification.
Also in the gallery were people from Jiwaka and Hela who had come to witness the tabling of the bill to declare them separate provinces.