Strengthen our electoral process

Letters, Normal

The National, Monday 05th December 2011

I WAS sad to see the front page of The National (Nov 24) showing women dancing and celebrating the passing of the proposed amendment which may see the creation of 22 seats for women in parliament.
How can we treat our women in this manner?
I have written in this daily recently against the 22 seats for women in parliament.
I am not against women in parliament but I am against legalising any form of segregation in PNG.
In this case, it is about segregating our women in the political process.
This, in itself, is discriminatory, undemocratic and wrong.
The Constitution already guarantees the right of every citizen, both men and women, over the age of 18 and of sound mind to stand for elected office.
This constitutional guarantee is for “equal participation” in the democratic electoral process only.
It rightfully does not guarantee “equal participation” regarding seats in parliament.
Gender equality has nothing to do with seats in parliament.
This is why the Constitution recognises and preserves the people’s democratic right of choice, their right to select and elect leaders, regardless of gender, colour, creed and affiliations through the normal ballot.
There is nothing wrong if the people elect an all-male parliament or if they elect an all-female parliament.
The seats in parliament represent the choice of the people through the normal democratic ballot.
So, why are MPs so keen to legalise segregated seats for women in parliament?
I would like to ask the 72 MPs who voted for this bill to point out which country has segregated seats for women.
What benchmark is PNG following here?
Can Dame Carol Kidu tell us when did Australia create segregated seats for women? Or Canada, Germany, France, UK or US?
What set precedent is being used? 
The National’s editorial (Nov 25) pointed out some valid points that might contribute to the dearth of women MPs.
What is needed is not segregated seats for women but strengthening the electoral process and making it “candidate and voter friendly” for both genders.
Strict laws should be passed and enforced on the conduct of candidates during the electoral process.
Discrimination, harassment, vote buying, vote rigging, etc, should be punishable with severe fines and jail terms.
Political parties should be made accountable for the conduct of their candidates and supporters.
There should be a law to regulate and register political campaign donations by both companies and individuals.
There ought to be a limit on the amount of cash donations to a political party or individual candidates.
This is one of the root causes of corruption.
It is the electoral process that needs to be strengthened and enforced so candidates of both genders are not disadvantaged and marginalised.
This is what women leaders ought to be fighting for instead.        
If Sir Michael Somare is correct when he stated that “52% of the country’s population is made up of women” (The National, Nov 24), then women are the majority.
I suggest women leaders and Dame Carol develop strategies to tap into this reservoir of woman power.
I am certain through concerted and well-coordinated effort, women can win seats in parliament through the normal electoral process.
I would vote for capable women candidates based on merit in the normal electoral process.
But I would not vote for women on a segregated ballot.
It does not matter what the intentions are.
I am against any form of segregation in the political process.
It is discriminatory and undemo­cratic.

Lason Watai