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Parliament Committee unhappy Justice Department admits reserved seats delayed until after election

PORT MORESBY 3 March 2022: The Special Parliamentary Committee on Gender Based Violence (GBV) held their second round of public hearings today, which aimed to hold government officials to account for implementing the 71 recommendations included in the first Report tabled by the Committee in Parliament on 12 August 2021.

Chairman Hon Abel opened the second public hearings by calling for an end to GBV and thanking the organisation across the country who work tirelessly to help GBV survivors. He stated: "GBV is a behavioural issue. The situation cannot be solved until we change our behaviour. Why are we men so violent? We have families because we love our wives and children so why do we do this? We need to understand what is driving this behaviour. Is it poverty or the pressures of society and settlements? Yes, the Government has a role to address such issues - but we also all have a role to play in ending GBV."

"GBV is a behavioural issue. The situation cannot be solved until we change our behaviour. Why are we men so violent? We have families because we love our wives and children so why do we do this? We need to understand what is driving this behaviour." -- Chairman Hon Charles Abel

In reflecting on the role of the Committee in helping GBV survivors and frontline crisis worker, Hon Abel stressed that the Committee has a very specific role to oversee and monitor Government. However, the Committee does not perform the role of Government or the public service. Instead, it works to monitor the performance of government departments and to call for concrete action, as required.

In his opening statement, Governor Parkop made clear: "Ending GBV is a goal of the state. It has been endorsed at the global level. We have a national strategy. It is a goal of our nation to achieve gender equality. It is proclaimed in our 5 Goals and Directive Principles in the national Constitution. It is not something we invented. It is the foundation of our State, contained in the very founding document that created our State. Therefore, it must be the work of all government departments, and all our people to end GBV, to achieve gender equality and to end all forms of discrimination."

The morning session focused heavily on two critical issues. First, in the context of the upcoming elections and in recognition of the importance of women’s leadership to national development generally and to ending GBV specifically, the Committee pressed forward with pushing for temporary special measures to be enacted before the end of the current parliamentary term.

During witness testimony from Ambassador Ivan Pomaleu, Secretary of PMNEC, and the follow up testimony of the Registrar for Political Parties, Dr Alphonse Gelu, the Committee pushed hard to find out why the 5 regional reserved seats committed to by Prime Minister Marape had not yet been enacted.

Governor Parkop noted that the Boundaries Commission has made a report recommending 10 more seats which are being considered for immediate creation. He stated: "If we can create 10 more normal seats, why cant we create 5 seats for women? Why can't we get the Boundaries Commission to make a recommendation for reserved seats right now, that can be actioned straight away. If its a legal problem - then we need to solve it. Maybe there is still time if there are 2 more sessions of Parliament." Ambassador Pomaleu acknowledged the issue made no commitments. The Committee indicated they want him to consider what can still be done before the elections in June 2022 and to make every effort to drive forward law reforms to create 5 women’s seats before the election is called in 2022.

Secondly, the Committee pushed hard to establish the National GBV Secretariat. Governor Bird pushed for the immediate establishment for the National GBV Secretariat, noting the Secretariat is needed to help coordinate such funding and to ensure that it is used properly. He said "It has been almost 12 months since the called for the immediate set up of the Secretariat - why hasn't this been done yet?" He encouraged Ambassador Pomaleu to call up the Department of Personnel Management to get them to immediately approve the positions and start recruitment immediately.

"It has been almost 12 months since the called for the immediate set up of the National GBV Secretariat - why hasn't this been done yet?" -- Committee Member, Governor Powes Parkop

When the Committee later interviewed Ms Taies Sansan, Secretary, Department of Personnel Management (DPM), they put the same issue to her. Governor Parkop pressed Mr Sansan, noting in his testimony to the Committee earlier in the day, the Secretary of DFCDR, Mr Jerry Ubase had advised that the position descriptions were ready but had not been approved by DPM.

Governor Bird also noted that Mr Ubase had advised he now has an allocation of 800,000 Kina for salaries to fund the new positions. Governor Bird pressed Ms Sansan to make a commitment to approving the positions urgently. In response, she advised that as soon as she sights the documents from DFCDR she will give the approval, provided the positions are funded. The Committee demanded that the issue be sorted before the next parliamentary sitting in late March when they will raise the issue again.

Governors Bird and Parkop also had a strong discussion with Ms Sansan regarding how public servants can be dealt with if they commit GBV. Governor Bird noted that DPM has said they are reviewing their General Orders and recommended that the orders should be amended to make very clear that anyone who commits GBV can be terminated from their employment. Governor Bird demanded that GOs be amended so that every single public service contract states that officers will be terminated if they are found to have committed GBV, based on a civil standard. There must be zero tolerance of GBV in the public service.

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:

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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