Social Concerns Notes – June 2020

Transparency and Coronavirus

https://www.pngattitude.com/2020/05/transparency-weighs-in-against-corruptavirus.html 31 May 2020

| Transparency International PNG Link here to the full article which includes useful tables

PORT MORESBY – As most countries have begun scaling down safety measures against Covid-19, Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) has heightened its efforts in calling on the government of Papua New Guinea to implement measures to safeguard state of emergency funding against misuse and misappropriation. This call to action by TIPNG comes after concerns raised by PNG treasury minister Ian Ling Stuckey in early April regarding allegations that a bulk of the initial K23 million released by the PNG government for the Covid-19 state of emergency had been spent on hire cars and media consultants.

Although PNG prime minister James Marape and police minister Bryan Kramer have since refuted these allegations, the government has yet to provide verifiable evidence in support of their statements.

The greatest concern for Papua New Guineans is PNG’s track record of grossly mishandling government sanctioned special projects for which project funding and management are exempted from strict transparency and accountability protocols. Such protocols are normally provided under the PNG Public Finances Management Act, and include competitive bidding and the Integrated Finance Management System or IFMS.

The most recent example of exemption from these requirements was the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, hosted by PNG, during which, millions of kina are believed to have been spent by the previous government, often on questionable expenses. The debacle notoriously came to a head when hundreds of police, military and prison guards stormed and vandalised the PNG parliament over unpaid allowances. Despite calls from TIPNG and other PNG citizens, no financial reports have been made available to the public since, with many service providers still waiting to be paid.

If corruption is not prevented, Covid-19 could have a devastating effect on PNG, with the potential loss of life exacerbated by mismanagement and the misapplication of resources.

Our systems worked, so what happened?

04 June 2020

https://www.pngattitude.com/2020/06/our-systems-worked-so-what-happened.html 

| My Land, My Country

The quality of transport infrastructure – especially roads and bridges – determines the price of food. Apart from consumption, this single factor influences the rate of supply and demand to a large extent. Economists can argue about the theory.  But if you ask any kaukau and broccoli  seller in Lae or Madang where produce from the highlands ends up, they will tell you why their prices are high in many instances.

If a road section is damaged (which happens a lot), the bags of food have to be shouldered to the other side of the road where another vehicle has to be found. The carriers have to be paid and the vegetable dealer pays twice for transport. Where does he pass on the cost? To the consumer in Madang or Lae.

Papua New Guinea’s food security challenge has to be confronted on multiple fronts.At the top of the list of priorities should be local production and food security followed by the country’s food distribution network – roads and bridges. Food production and research hubs – if that’s what you want to call them – have to be reestablished.  I say reestablished because we had them in the 1970s and 1980s. They were called DPI (Department of Primary Industry) stations. Those stations were located in strategic locations around the country. They were nuclei for research, agricultural support and seed distribution.  Government workers lived and worked at those stations. Some still do, but without the support they used to get. Those stations were connected by well-maintained road networks managed by the Works Department, which had a similar system of works camps along highways and feeder roads. The DPI stations supported farmers by providing advice, managing disease outbreaks and attending to the impacts of natural disasters. All this was done by the government of Papua New Guinea.

We seem to be suffering from generational amnesia. It is baffling that we keep trying to reinvent the wheel when we already had systems that worked for our people. Why can’t we bring them back? ….

The bottom line is, we had systems in place. Systems that worked. We listened to wrong advice in the 1990s and look where it got us.

Lung cancer killing many, says doctor

June 2, 2020 The National

 LUNG cancer affects a significant population and is a top-killing cancer in Papua New Guinea, a doctor says. United Nations in-country physician Dr Mathias Sapuri said this during the commemoration of World No Tobacco Day by the PNG Cancer Foundation (PNGCF) on Sunday.
“It is important to know that smoking leads to the development of lung cancer,” he said.
“Children and adolescents should not pick up the habit of smoking.
“Exposure to smoking by family relations are common, where a parent or relatives currently smoke, it’s most likely that children adopt the habit.”
Sapuri stressed that passive smoking (the breathing of other people’s smoke by non-smokers) was a concern as it could affect people. He said it was important to break the cycle.

4,000-plus church health workers waiting to be paid

June 11, 2020The National

MORE than 4,000 health workers employed under the Church Health Services (CHS) are still waiting to be paid after more than four months, officials say. The CHS and the Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) are calling on the Health Department to immediately release their outstanding pay and operational grants.
Catholic Bishop Francis Meli said the salary and operational grants from February to June as appropriated in the 2020 Budget were yet to be released. He urged the Government to pay outstanding operational grants for all church-run health worker training schools from 2017 to 2020.
They are giving the Government 15 working days to release the funds. “An indefinite stop-work will commence at 8am on July 3 unless outstanding salary and operational grants from February to August are paid in full and cleared by the Banks,” he said.
Bishop Meli said the churches had their own ethics and values and to stop work or strike was always the last resort. “But health workers and training schools have run out of patience,” he said.
“We know that it does not sit well with many but we have come to a stage where we have to make a decision for fairness and justice for our health workers nationwide.”

Agency hospitals may stop

June 26, 2020The National

 MORE than 700 health facilities run by churches may stop work next week if the Government does not release all their outstanding funds, officials say. The Christian Health Services (CHS) and Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) were forced to serve a stop-work notice through the Health Department on June 10 giving the state 15 working days to release the outstanding grants from February because staff had been deprived of their salaries for four months.
Chairman of the executive and general assembly of CHS, Japalis Kaiok, told The National yesterday that the Government responded by releasing a month’s operational and salary grant of K6 million as appropriated in the 2020 Budget and it was distributed last Friday.
Kaiok said that was basically the February grant that covered two fortnights.
“Although the one-month grant was released, we still need the four months grants (March-June),” he said. “The church-run training schools operational grants since 2017 are still outstanding as well.
“To confirm with you if the government has come very clear and positive on their commitment for the four months, that’s something that we still need to hear from the Government,” Kaiok said.
The churches are an important partner in healthcare service delivery in PNG with 4,764 health workers, 745 health facilities and 19 health worker training schools.
“We are very mindful of the impact and the consequences it (stop work) will have on the population but we can’t compromise on our statement. “We will stand by the conditions of the petition until July 3.”

Momis bows out with a sense of fulfillment| Radio New Zealand

https://www.pngattitude.com/2020/06/momis-bows-out-with-sense-of-fulfilment.html#more

AUCKLAND – In his last speech in the Bougainville parliament last Thursday, president John Momis spoke passionately about a political career that began nearly 50 years ago. He spoke of how it began in the early seventies when he was anointed by chiefs in Kieta in a cultural ritual and sent on a mission to help the people determine their own future.

Dr Momis said the success to date of the peace process is down to the unity, creativity and productivity of the people. “We are very lucky, although we face a lot of challenges, but we have also been very creative, productive and despite the  differences we have worked together to achieve so much,” he said.

The president also spoke of the coming consultations on the result of the Bougainville referendum, where the new Autonomous Bougainville Government will have to consult with the Papua New Guinea national government. He called PNG prime minister James Marape a responsible leader, who recognises the Bougainville issue is a national issue. Dr Momis encouraged both governments to continue to work together. The two term president said he will “bow out with a sense of fulfilment and a sense of gratitude that the Almighty has seen fit to ask me and you, mere humans, to share in his creative power to create something new.”

Plant More Trees campaign underway

17 June 2020https://www.pngattitude.com/2020/06/plant-more-trees-campaign-underway.html#more 

PORT MORESBY – A campaign to plant more trees in Port Moresby and Papua New Guinea has been initiated by Travel4Green (T4G) PNG, a not-for-profit project in partnership with Catholic Bishops Conference.The campaign has adopted the ‘Keep It Clean. Go Green’ under Pope Francis’s Laudato Si statement and the PNG Conservation and Environment Protection Authority’s recently launched ‘10-million trees in 10 years’ target.

The joint campaign is aimed at involving students in tree planting activities and monitoring PNG’s standing forests to make the environment and communities healthier and more livable.

Annual Progress Report 2019 for the United Nations in Papua New Guinea

Development Trends

The Papua New Guinea economy grew by 4 per cent in 2019 driven by commodity exports, agriculture and logging. Government expenditure prioritized free primary healthcare, infrastructure projects, and the Provincial and District Services Improvement Program.

Despite socioeconomic challenges including high rates of unemployment, especially among young people, lack of educational opportunities, underrepresentation of women in governance and decision-making, violence against women and girls, malnutrition and limited access to improved water sources, life expectancy continues to increase in PNG. Digital economic innovative intervention, and information and communication technologies (ICTs), also gained momentum in several government sectors. Furthermore, the Bougainville Referendum Commission conducted a peaceful, violence-free referendum.

Development Context

PNG, a lower-middle-income country ranked 155 out of 187 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index, is the only Pacific country in the low human development band of the Index. Population statistics indicate that 52 per cent of the population is below 24 years and 85 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.1 The country faces a number of challenges in translating economic growth into inclusive, sustainable human development, including chronic youth un- and underemployment, which remained unchanged at 2.40 per cent in 2019,2 as well as low absorption of school leavers into the formal employment sector.

Opportunities for formal tertiary education are minimal, and opportunities for paid untrained workers even more limited. Unemployment is felt, not only among the youth, but throughout the abled population. It is a substantial contributing factor to the challenge of law and order, to the continued, and indeed increasing, levels of crime and violence, and high costs of security protection. Uncertain economic conditions and rising fiscal pressure affect the country and contribute to the breakdown in the rule of law in both highland and coastal provinces. In all, there is an imperative for peace and greater social cohesion throughout the country.

The complex challenges and exciting opportunities PNG witnessed in 2019 included the change in National Government, a referendum on the political future of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, two budgets, a cabinet reshuffle, and new infrastructure such as the Coral Sea Cable communications system. A vote of no confidence in the O’Neil government in early May ultimately led to a change in Prime Minister in late May. On 7 June, the new Prime Minister, James Marape, swore in a full cabinet. Significant reshuffling followed in mid-November. Years of deflated economic and social progress, including political will, have put a considerable constraint on the progress of the new Government’s focus and other development work.

The new Government expressed its commitment to improving the quality of life for Papua New Guinean citizens by addressing health, education, and law and order. The Government proposed to grow the economy through investing in the skills, business and employment opportunities that would unlock the country’s potential, promote economic development outside of Port Moresby, and clamp down on corruption.
The Government set out to increase the country’s internal revenue by 50 per cent, from a PGK10 billion a year on-average internal revenue.

The wisdom from my culture

https://www.pngattitude.com/2020/06/the-wisdom-from-my-culture.html#more 11 June 2020 SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE – Three years ago, I asked my dad what the role of women was in his culture and how women were treated. This was when another incident of violence came to the fore. I needed to understand how his culture dealt with women and their place in society.  My dad is a man of huge contrasts; he is an immaculately patient being with a frighteningly explosive temper. He is not someone you would easily walk over. If you did, it was because he tolerated the situation or he walked away from a fight. His restraint was and still is legendary. He was not a saint. He did extend his share of violence to poor unsuspecting souls who chose to pick on him.

Even in his worst, he never laid a hand on my mum. The wisdom in his reply has stuck with me since. His was a warrior culture, where the men pretty much ruled the daily affairs of the tribe. The decisions on where to settle, which alliances to forge, which clans to attack and destroy were made by men. However, the secret counsel and the influence came from the women. Our ancient culture understood the purpose of the man’s ego.  The women guarded it. They did not interfere or publicly embarrass their men in front of their peers.  But in decisions that were going to be disastrous, the women chided and counselled their men.

The man’s wealth came from the women who cared for the gardens and the pigs in partnership with her man. A careless woman spelled the downfall of her husband. Society understood that wars could be started because of the words of women and disastrous battles that could affect generations in the future could also be avoided through a woman’s counsel. Women were not mere property.My dad said despite the fierce reputations of the grandfathers, women were rarely beaten or abused. Shouting or fighting with your woman in front of your elders was shunned. It spoke of a man with boyish tendencies, unable to control his emotions and unable to function as a thinking, intelligent warrior in battle.

He said it was expensive to fix domestic disputes that came to the attention of older people in the tribe.  You had to pay compensation in pigs and whatever they demanded. Basically, if you are man enough to strike your woman, you must have the wealth and the emotional stamina able to fix multiple relationships affected by your actions. Diplomacy in the home and outside of it was a skill every man had to learn.

Years ago, when my mum was a feisty, hotheaded, young woman, I used to hear her say during my dad’s most frightening moments, “Noken wari, em ba no nap paitim mi.” I understood much later why, he always calmed down.  First and foremost, he loved his woman too much to strike her. Second, as per the wisdom of the ancestors, it would be too emotionally expensive to fix several relationships that came with the woman he loved. The disrespect shown to his in-laws – the young men and women who came to look up to him would be very difficult to repair.  The trust would be broken and it would take years to fix.  To restore his honour, he would work to repair all those relationships.

The parallels to the 21st century relationships remain the same.  Abuse has high penalties –emotional, financial and legal. That is the wisdom from my culture. You have to understand your own cultural context from your elders

PNG TokStret (internet)

CONCERNS ON THE PASSING OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY BILL 2020

**************************************************************************

MEDIA RELEASE

We make this Statement as protest. Firstly for the manner the Public Health Emergency Bill 2020 was rushed into Parliament by the Government and passed on Friday 12 June 2020. There was no prior wider consultation, openness, and debate in Parliament. The law was rushed in total secrecy without justification. Secondly, the law has serious constitutional issues, lacking transparency and accountability for political expediency, which required greater consultation with all stakeholders prior to presentation in Parliament.

We are told that the Bill that was introduced in Parliament was different to the initial draft that was circulated to Members of Parliament prior to the Parliament sitting on Friday 12 June 2020. The following are our fundamental concerns.

First and fundamentally, the Bill takes away the powers and functions of the Legislative Arm to the Executive Arm. In doing so it not only compromises the supervisory and oversight powers of Parliament on the Executive, but it surrenders or delegates its powers without reservation. A State of Emergency under Part X of the Constitution is a power vested on the Parliament during an emergency. This is so especially when the rights and freedoms of people under the Constitution are to be suspended and subjected to severe restrictions and deprivations. Only Parliament through the elected Representatives of the people can, when the occasion necessitates, make those decisions. By the Bill the Parliament’s supervisory and control powers under S. 239 appears to be abrogated and divested in the Executive Arm of the Government. The Parliamentary Emergency Committee provided for under Sections 240-242 are also been abrogated and divested of its functions to the Executive Arm.

Second, the Bill creates and confers more powers to the Controller seemingly without much oversight from the Executive (NEC) or the Minister responsible. While the appointment of a Controller is with the NEC there is no set criteria and qualification for the position of the Controller, except that he or she should be a public office holder (s. 7). It does not even provide from which public office the Controller will be selected from – the police, defence, CS, Health or such other public office. It is left to the prerogative of the NEC. The functions and powers of the Controller are quite unlimited during the period of the emergency (ss. 8, 9). This is dangerous given the experiences the common people experience with the law enforcement authorities in normal times. More so, when the Emergency Act already abrogates and restricts the Constitutional rights to privacy, movement, personal liberty, free speech, etc., of the people. It imposes a double jeopardy for the people.

Third, “emergency” is not adequately defined under the Bill. Any definition must be consistent with the meaning set out under Sections 226-243 of the Constitution. The definition under the Bill does not reference the relevant Constitutional provisions. This is dangerous especially when powers are left to the Executive Government of the day.

Fourth, financial accountability of public funds is seemingly without transparency and accountability. The normal safeguards to accountability under the Public Finances (Management) Act 1995, and the National Procurement Act 2018 are also suspended. It leaves room for misuse of public funds for the emergency without scrutiny and accountability. The Act effectively removes the oversight powers of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament to the Controller.

While it is understood that the suspension of the PFMA Act and the National Procurement Act is intended to avoid the cumbersome procurement procedures in emergency situation, the oversight functions and powers of the Auditor General (SS. 213-214, Constitution) and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (SS. 215-216, Constitution) cannot be removed. The Act abrogates their powers and functions and vests on the Controller, who is not duly qualified, and who only reports to the Minister responsible and to the NEC. Emergency if at all is a good reason for use of Certificate of Inexpediency as opposed to the public tender process under the FFMA. However, a Bill that extricates itself of the whole PFMA is a sign of bad motive.

The law does not even allow for the application of the Audit Act and the powers of the Auditor General to audit the books of the Controller after the emergency period. When audit is brought under the Audit Act it will subject the Controller to the oversight function of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. Parliament under the Bill will be totally divested of its powers to the Executive Government, which raises serious constitutional questions.

Fifth, the following constitutional rights and freedom of the people will be suspended and deprived – liberty of the person (S. 42), freedom from arbitrary search and entry (S. 44), freedom of expression (S. 46), freedom from assembly and association (S. 47), right to privacy (S. 49), right to freedom of information (S. 51), right to freedom of movement (S. 52), and protection from unjust deprivation of property (S. 53) for the cause of public interest in public safety, public order, and public affair. This is a major fear. The Constitutional implications in the deprivation of these civil rights of the people under Section 233 of the Constitution will need the interpretation of the Supreme Court.

Sixth, the Bill does not include provisions for “Extra-Territorial Application” of the Emergency law to PNG Citizens and subjects including PNG Flagged Vessels overseas; nor does it include its application to Foreign Flagged Vessels in PNG territory. The Bill does not include under the definition of “Vessel” reference to the Merchant Shipping Act and or the National Maritime Authority Act to allow the emergency law to apply to all vessels including PNG Flagged Vessels overseas and Foreign Flagged vessels in PNG territory. The role of the NMSA in this situation is not specified.

Seventh, the penalty provisions are too onerous considering the freedoms and rights being deprived on the one hand and the K50, 000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years (individual) and K500, 000.00 (corporate) fines for breaches of the emergency law on the other under S. 44. While the penalties are designed to deter and enforce the emergency laws and directions it is too onerous and untenable.

Eighth, the transitional and savings provisions under sections 53 and 54 of the Bill has retrospective effect to all past actions, decisions, procurements, monies received and used under the past emergency laws and regulations. Any transparency and accountability of the funds, assets, contracts and works etc., under the repealed Emergency (General Provisions) (COVID 19) Act 2020 will be at the discretion of the Controller, Minister responsible and the NEC. There is no further oversight from the Auditor General or the National Parliament under the Bill.

The Bill has the appearance of creating Marshall law and Police State. It is a dragonian law to democratic rights and freedoms of people. This type of law cannot be allowed in a Constitutional democracy where the freedom and rights of the people are given special protection under the Constitution. It is a law that takes away the oversight powers of the Auditor General and the Parliament through its Public Accounts Committee. It will serve a bad precedent for future Governments.

The Bill extricates itself from the application of the Constitutional law, which is tantamount to altering the Constitution. This is a serious Constitutional point. To alter Constitution it requires wider consultation and over a number of sittings of Parliament over time intervals. It was not the case with this Bill.

In light of the above concerns, we had recommended for the presentation of the Bill to Parliament be delayed and allow for wider consultation with Constitutional offices, relevant State departments, think-tank groups and organisations, churches, and the civil society. We also thought it was necessary to seek a Supreme Court advisory opinion on the Constitutional implications of the Bill. There is no real or perceived threat or danger to public good and welfare to rush and push this Bill into law, especially when we do not have local data, evidence, or deaths in PNG yet for such urgency. Reliance on outside advice and situations alone is no justification for the urgency.

We are a faith-based professional organisation and we are also concerned with the extreme restrictions under emergency laws affecting our churches and religious faith and worship activities. Whatever we do God must not be left out of the planning and measures taken in any emergencies. Our churches and people have been praying and will continue to pray for the protection and end to this Covis-19 Pandemic.

FINALLY, GIVEN THE PASSING OF THE BILL WE CALL ON THE OMBUSDMAN COMMISSION TO INITIATE A CONSTITUTIONAL REFERENCE IN THE SUPREME COURT TO DETERMINE THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THIS EMERGENCY LAW.

Paul Harricknen, OL President CATHOLIC PROFESSIONALS SOCIETY PNG

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