The Chief Ombudsman Speaks at the Transparency International Election Awareness Workshop

The Ombudsman Commission through the Chief Ombudsman, Mr. Richard Pagen attended the Transparency International Workshop in Lae, Morobe Province and was quite vocal and up-front in his presentation when he said “the quality of leaders that we have is portrayed by the type of laws and decisions made, and policies developed to deliver the best service they deliver to the bulk of the population. This is the definition of politics.”

The Chief ombudsman said the type of leaders we have voted in seem to be more interested in passing laws that give them more powers and/or cause to bend the rule of law and delay and frustrate any law that would contribute to observe the rule base laws to gain the best for the less.

Mr Pagen said this during an election awareness event organized by Transparency International in Lae, Morobe Province in the presence of key stakeholders from various agencies such as the Morobe Provincial Administration, Lae City Authority and the PNG Royal Constabulary. 

The Chief Ombudsman said that thankfully the Constitution has given the Ombudsman Commission the mandate to keep guard of the laws parliament makes and it is one of a limited range of public bodies authorized by the Constitution to make special references to the Supreme Court to seek the Court’s binding opinion on questions relating to the interpretation or application of the Constitutional Laws. The Constitution authorised the Ombudsman Commission to maintain a watching brief over the nation’s constitutional development and has become, to some extent, a guardian of the Constitution. Since Independence, it has been a fairly regular referrer of constitutional questions to the Supreme Court.

One of the laws that was passed by parliament but declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court was the Public Money Management Regularisation Act 2017 (PMMR Act)   which the Ombudsman Commission through Section 19(1) of the Constitution sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on the constitutionality of the PMMR Act. The Supreme Court pronounced that the whole PMMR Act was unconstitutional and invalid as it duplicated the functions performed by the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995 and was ambiguous and should not be in operation.

He said the leaders we vote in should be working on bills that will give greater power to the people. He said issues such as resource ownership and partnership on development of its resources should be in the forefront of any lawmaking body. The National Goals and Directive Principle calls for equal participation in the development of resources.

We are here talking about the coming election. It is time we must know that people of Papua New Guinea owns the office and position which are call Regional Office and Open Electorate Office and the positions to these are the Governor and Open Member respectively.

This two, the office and position must be respected by person who is elected to occupy. Therefore, the people are urged to vote for quality leaders with integrity and who believe in transparency, honesty and servitude in this coming election because the consequences of their vote will be felt for the next five years.

He urged then them not to vote for person(s) who do(es) not have integrity, and who care less about transparency, hence we have leaders who are driving around in dark-tinted vehicles signing documents and cheques here and there,” Mr Pagen said.

Mr Pagen said people cannot be careless now and later complain for the next five years.

He said Section 27 of the Constitution states that a leader occupying a public office and position should not demean the Office and the Position by his or her actions in private or public life. That is why we need leaders with integrity.

“Our elected members of parliament are supposed to be our servants but we have made them to be leaders and we fail to hold them accountable,” Mr Pagen said.

He said people should be willing to come forward with any information about their leaders when the Ombudsman Commission asks for evidences of any wrongdoing.

Election time in PNG is normally a time where candidates become very close to their constituents, travelling throughout their electorate and offering promises to be fulfilled if they are voted back.

 He said feasting and partying with candidates is for only one day but you will suffer the consequences of your vote for the next five years.

In conclusion Mr. Pagen echoes the sentiments of the Constitutional Planning Committee which said in Paragraph 7 of Chapter 3 that “The members of the National Parliament are the elected representatives of all people of Papua New Guinea.  They have been given their high position to represent the interests of their people, and not for their own special interests.  What applies to the ordinary member of parliament is even more applicable to those who hold ministerial office in the nation state.  The Ministers of the nation hold high office and wide powers so that they may be better equipped to serve the people of their nation.”


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