CPS deplores Public Health Bill 

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-       Rosemary Yambune

 

Port Moresby: In a media conference, the Catholic Professionals Society openly deplored the Public Health Emergency bill that the Government of Papua New Guinea had passed recently.

 

On Thursday June 20th, the faith-based organization said the extreme restrictions under the emergency laws are affecting the churches, religious faith and worship activities.

 

The Catholic Professionals Society called on the Ombudsman Commission to initiate a constitutional reference in the Supreme court to determine the constitutionality of this emergency law.

 

While giving the background of the emergency law to the audience, President of CPS, Mr. Paul Harricknen said the emergency bill was passed on June 12, 2020 and was rushed in total secrecy without justification while the bill also contains serious constitutional issues, lacks transparency and accountability. There were eight concerns highlighted by CPS from the bill.

 

Firstly, the bill takes away powers and functions of the Legislative arm to the Executive Arm which compromises the supervisory powers of the Parliament and delegated powers without reservation.

 

Secondly, the Bill confers more powers to the controller without much oversight from the NEC which lives powers and functions of the Controller unlimited and remains dangerous for common people. 

 

The third point claims the word ‘emergency’ was not adequately defined under the Bill; it is risky especially when powers are left to the executive government of the day.  

 

Financial accountability under the Public funds is seeming without transparency and accountability and that is the fourth issue of the Bill that CPS saw. 

 

Important constitutional rights and freedom of the people will also be suspended and deserve the interpretation of the supreme court before the passing. 

 

The sixth argument that CPS raised stated that the bill excluded provisions for Extra-Territorial Applications like vessels overseas or foreign vessels in Papua New Guinea.

 

Furthermore, the penalties are onerous considering the freedoms and rights on hand. 

 

Lastly, the transitional and savings provisions under the bill have retrospective effect, which means any transparency and accountability of funds will be at the discretion of the Controller there is no oversight of the Auditor General. 

 

More than 30 people were present for the media conference which included all media houses, members of CPS, and representatives from a few non-government organizations.

  

“Our churches and people have been praying and will continue to pray for the protection and end to this COVID-19 Pandemic” he concluded. 

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