Reserved seats for women bill in PNG shelved

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23 February 2012

The campaign by Papua New Guinea women to have 22 reserved seats in parliament has ended – for now. They will have to wait until the next election in 2017 to fight for the seats again. Those who want to stand in the 2012 election will have to compete against male colleagues.

The organic law on national and local level government elections (amendment No 2) introduced by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill failed to get the absolute majority of 73 needed to have it passed yesterday. It means that women will have to wait until the next election in 2017 to push for the reserved 22 seats. 

As the vote was about to be taken, 21 members of parliament walked out of the chamber. Only 58 members voted for the Bill. The only MP who voted against the bill was Governor of Western Dr Bob Danaya who has been against the bill since it was introduced.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who has been supporting the bill, was unhappy when it did not go through. “I’m disappointed that the bill did not pass in the house today,’’ he said. “It is clear some members harbour the view that this may not be the right time to pass this bill, which has now lapsed. But the affirmative vote shows a strong support for this bill on the floor still. “I want to encourage our women leaders and supporters of this bill not to give up. Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Meanwhile, parliament has unanimously passed legislative amendments to reduce the Open seats from 110 to 89 in accordance with the Constitution. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who introduced the second reading of the bill got the support (79-0 votes) to make amendments to the organic law on national and local level government elections. He said the amendment was a follow-up to the previous amendment to retain the provincial seats for governors standing in the 2012 election.

O’Neill said the constitution, when it was amended in view of removing the provincial seats, also increased the open seats from 89 to 110. He said the amendments would ensure there were no less than 89 open electorates and no more than 120 open electorates. He said once the population increased and there was a need for more representation, new open seats could be created.

[The National Newspaper - published through PACNEWS (PINA)]

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