GBV Committee calls on DJAG to use 2011 constitutional amendment to create reserve seats for women

PORT MORESBY 4 March 2022: The Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender Based Violence (GBV) held Day 2 of the second public hearings today, following up on some of the most important issues raised in their August 2021 Report to Parliament, including the push to enact 5 reserved seats for women in the National Parliament.


In testimony on Day 1, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Amabssador Pomaleu, admitted that work to progress 5 regional reserved seats had stalled and was unlikely to be tabled in Parliament before the June 2022 elections are held.


The Committee followed up today with the Department of Justice and the Attorney General (DJAG). Committee Chairman Hon Charles Abel asked about the proposal to reserve 5 regional seats for women. He stated: “We were unhappy to hear yesterday that the Government seems to have abandoned the proposal to reserve 5 seats for women before the next elections. We supported the PM’s proposal last year but there now appears to be a lack of political will. Please explain why the legislation hasn’t been drafted.”


Ms Josephine Pitmur, DJAG Deputy Secretary advised that their office has been tasked by the National Executive Council with producing a proposal for consideration by the next Government elected after June 2022. She also advised they had done more research and it appears that the reserved seats reforms require a constitutional amendment, which will need a 2/3 majority vote in Parliament.

L-R: Gov Powes Parkop, Hon Charles Abel, Gov Allan Bird

Governor Powes Parkop followed up by asking Ms Pitmur why the current legal basis was not sufficient to enact simple legislation. He highlighted two points. Firstly, he noted: “In 2011, the Parliament passed the Equality and Participation Act, known as Constitutional Amendment No.32 which amended the Constitution to permit specific women’s only seats. The reserved seats only failed because the amendments to related Organic Laws failed by 6 votes. As such, it is not clear why another constitutional amendment would be required.”


Governor Parkop noted that DJAG Secretary Dr Eric Kwa had previously briefing the Committee that only an ordinary legislation would be required, presumably because the 2011 amendment to s.101 of the Constitution was already certified.


Governor Parkop went further and noted: “The Government is currently considering a report of the Boundaries Commission to create 10 new Open Seats. If the Boundaries Commission can recommend those, why can they not recommend 5 reserved seats? They want the 10 new open seats to be created in the next session via ordinary legislation. Why can the Government not also include 5 reserved seats for women in the legislation? It seems like a political problem not a legal one.”


In response to the Committee’s rigorous questioning, Ms Pitmur advised that they have only been tasked by the NEC to present a proposal to the post-June 2022 Government. Hon Abel responded by stating: “I am very disappointed by that answer. We should get the reserved seats legislation tabled and passed before the 2022 elections are called.”


The Special Parliamentary Committee on GBV 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).


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.

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