Updated: Nov 30, 2021
PORT MORESBY 1 November 2021: The Chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Hon Charles Abel, held a Press Conference today alongside Committee member Governor Powes Parkop. They sent a strong message to the Government to make sure that the upcoming budget session, starting on 16 November, must be used to allocate proper funding to implementing the National GBV Strategy and resourcing GBV activities across the country.
The Department for Community Development and Religion (DFCDR) has made a major funding bid of 35 million Kina over 5 years, which it wants to use to set up the National GBV Secretariat and to make sure GBV crisis response and prevention activities can be properly rolled out across the country. The RPNGC has also made a substantial budget bid to support their Family and Sexual Violence Units, and it was clear from the May 2021 GBV Committee hearings that the prosecution service and the courts also require better resourcing to address GBV.
Chairman Abel stated: “We have been calling for a proper budget to address GBV for a long time and we expect that this budget session the Government will make good on its promises to resource this critical work. We call on Treasurer Stuckey to table a strong budget which actions the Government’s commitment to prioritising GBV. Government needs to back up the words of the National GBV Strategy with real money! We know it will be a big budget this year – GBV cannot be left out of this year’s allocations.”
"Women of PNG live in an open prison. Always thinking about security, they cannot move around safely. This is why we need a National GBV Secretariat in place, the Secretariat in place – to demand accountability. We need it funded and we need to make sure it is staffed with well-qualified GBV experts with senior standing within the public service to drive this agenda." -- Governor Powes Parkop
Governor Parkop also used his speech to put the Treasury on notice and to demand that the budget include proper funding for GBV work. He went on to say: “Women of PNG live in an open prison. Always thinking about security, they cannot move around safely. This is why we need a National GBV Secretariat in place, the Secretariat in place – to demand accountability. We need it funded and we need to make sure it is staffed with well-qualified GBV experts with senior standing within the public service to drive this agenda. Our Committee cannot drive this agenda – that is the job of the National GBV Secretariat. They must be proper funded as a matter of urgency.”
The Press Conference today was also used to announce the launch a second round of public hearings by the Committee, which will be held in Port Moresby from Monday 29 November to Wednesday 1 December 2021. The hearings will be used to call on officials to explain what they have done to progress work since the May 2021 hearings held by the Committee and the publication of the Committee’s detailed GBV Report in August 2021.
Chairman Abel discussed some the priority recommendations of the Committee. He noted: “At the August parliamentary session, the Parliament endorsed in principle that our Parliamentary Committee would be made permanent. A motion needs to be tabled in Parliament urgently and driven through by the Leader of Government Business. I call on all of my fellow MPs to endorse that motion, to show that they are also committed to making sure that we as parliamentarians can oversee the work of Government to tackle GBV.”
NCD Governor Powes Parkop, a member of the Committee, also commented on some of the priorities of the Committee. He noted: “Our Committee Report included many important recommendations which we expect Government officials to action. For example, where is the legislation for reserved seats for women which we have been hearing about all year? Our elections are coming up in less than a year, but we still have seen nothing concrete to reserve a minimum number of seats for women in our National Parliament. We still have time. The Boundaries Commission should take action – rather than recommending 22 new open seats, they should use their powers to promote reserved seats for women.”
"Our elections are coming up in less than a year, but we still have seen nothing concrete to reserve a minimum number of seats for women in our National Parliament. We still have time. The Boundaries Commission should take action – rather than recommending 22 new open seats, they should use their powers to promote reserved seats for women.” -- Governor Powes Parkop
Hon Abel also made a strong statement against sorcery accusation related violence. He stated: “We have to pray. God, gives us strength to do the right thing. Violence is a cancer eating PNG the community. We are a Christian country but killing people in the name of sorcery is not Christian behaviour. People are being brutally killed and this cannot be tolerated. COVID19 is making this worse, because people are using it as an excuse to brand people sorcerers. It must stop. Follow the science – get vaccinated – do the right thing.”
When announcing the second round of parliamentary hearings, Hon Abel was clear about the aims of the hearings: “I know that some members of the public will ask why we are doing these hearings again, and whether it will just be another talk-fest. People have asked - what do such hearings achieve? We want the public to understand that the role of the Committee is not to do the work of Government because it is the Government who is actually directly responsible for using public monies to implement the National GBV Strategy. Our role is oversight of the Government.”
Governor Parkop also supported this approach, stating: “Our job as a parliamentary oversight Committee is to hold Government Ministers and officials to account for what they are supposed to be doing to address GBV. We want to use these hearings to ask them what they have done since the last hearings and to understand the progress that has been made to implement the 71 very concrete recommendations we tabled in Parliament on 12 August.”
The Committee was set up in 2020 by the National Parliament. It has six members, in addition to the Chair: Deputy Chairman Hon Allan Bird (Governor East Sepik), Hon Powes Parkop (Governor NCD), Hon Aiye Tambua (Goroka MP), Hon Michael Dua (Governor Chimbu), Hon Allan Marat (Rabaul MP) and Hon Ginson Saonu (Governor Morobe).
During the May 2021 hearings, the Members had many questions that still needed to be answered, regarding why action is still so slow regarding GBV. These hearings have been designed to provide a proper amount of time for the Committee Members to examine Ministers and officials, in order to better understand their activities, progress and ongoing challenges.
When explaining how the public hearings have been designed, Hon Abel explained: “The Committee is strongly supportive of the work of civil society, faith-based organisations, and the private sector bodies that are working to address GBV. We are well aware of the huge contribution they are making to address GBV issues across the country and we commend them.”
"We want to use these hearings as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on government officials, to show them that our Committee is very serious and will keep on asking them these questions until we get proper answers and until we are satisfied that the Government’s approaches to addressing GBV are working.” -- Hon Charles Abel, Chair
He went on: “However, these public hearings will not include testimony from NGOs, because the Committee has benefitted from the testimony provided during the May 2021 hearings and at the 2020 National GBV Summit. We want to use these hearings as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on government officials, to show them that our Committee is very serious and will keep on asking them these questions until we get proper answers and until we are satisfied that the Government’s approaches to addressing GBV are working.”
Recognising that the country is currently grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak, the Committee’s hearings will be held using COVID-safe approaches, which will ensure social distancing and keep a tight limit on how many officials attend and are interviewed. There will be no public gallery and attendees will be kept to a bare minimum.
To enable the public to watch and participate, the public hearings will be broadcast on the Committee’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PNGParlCommGBV.
For more information on the Committee, see Coalition of Parliamentarians to End GBV: https://www.unitedforequalitypng.com/.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is providing technical support to the Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV as part of its gender programming and the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative. This support aims to address Gender-Based Violence and support longer-term efforts to promote women’s participation and leadership in the Parliament.
Hon Charles Abel, Chairman
Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender-based Violence
1 November 2021
Mr Werner Cohill, Committee Secretary
C/-National Parliament, WAIGANI, NCD 131