True democracy is fair representation

Editorial, Normal

IN the face of so much support for the reserved women’s seats by women, it is quite astounding that very few members of parliament have come out in support of the bill.
One wonders why this is so when the positions of none of them is threatened by this proposal.
Indeed, every one of the 109 MPs should heave a huge sigh of relief because, should this bill be passed, any threat that might come from women candidates for open and regional seats is going to be minimised as women do battle among themselves to be elected into the reserved seat.
If parliament should pass the bill, the female population will also be grateful that this parliament, and none other, has made women representation possible and that could show in significant women turnout on polling day.
The arguments, which have so far been expressed by male parliamentarians, is that they have won their elections on an open field open to both male and female candidates and that women should do the same instead of being given special treatment.
We borrow the argument expressed by one of the very few parliamentarians that have openly supported this bill, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Minister Sam Abal.
He had said: “A democracy is about representative government.
“So far, we have shown a singular disdain for electing our women into parliament. This is not fair representation at all.”
We agree and go further to say that it is unlikely that PNG’s population will, of its own volition, elect women leaders during the next three or four general elections.
The reasons are grounded in tradition and culture, which is richly male chauvinistic.
It was a moving sight to see women from many parts of the country converge on parliament this week to support the bill.
At long last, women in this country are mobilising. Whatever the outcome of the vote in parliament, the era of women is at end. They will not rest until their number is counted and they participate in decision-making roles in this country.
The comments, we present in our report today, made by Chimbu women leaders from Sinasina-Yongomugl captures the thoughts of all the women who marched to parliament.
Six mothers from Sinasina-Yongomugl paid for their own way from Chimbu to Port Moresby to lend their support for the 22 reserved women’s seat bill but, especially, they came because they wanted to pressure their MP and Speaker Jeffrey Nape to support the bill.
In the minds of these women, Nape is the key person and upon his actions, or lack of it, rests the fate of the bill.
To an extent, they are right.
He is the key man, but this is the executive government’s show really.
It is the government which must provide the numbers and, from indications, government members are dragging their feet on this one.
We expect they will support the bill as this is the biggest parting gift from Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to the women of this country in the twilight days of his illustrious political career.
It behooves every member of Sir Michael’s ruling National Alliance party, and of every coalition partner, to support the bill not only out of respect for the grand chief but because it is the right thing to do.
Here, we borrow the words of Sylia Gonapa from Sinasina: “For 35 years, we (women) have been observers and labourers while men made decisions affecting our lives.
“In a home, both man and woman make decisions on the welfare of their family.
“So far, we have only seen man making the decisions.
“Decision making in PNG is like a plane flying on one wing.”
It is time the aircraft of state was stabilised, that it has decision makers who are both men and women, who lead not only with the head but from the heart, who understand that society will run well when both men and women make decisions affecting its welfare.
Our final comment is to support the suggestion by the foreign affairs minister to include a “sunset clause” in the law, which ensures the law is redundant after several terms of parliament.
Not to have such a clause would provide a danger at some future date when the tables are turned and there are more women than men in parliament and there is a law which promotes inequality – the very one which this bill proposes to defeat.