CPS raises concern over New Normal Bill
Date: 06 June 2020
FAITH-BASED PROFESSIONALS CALL FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON BILL FOR NEW NORMAL AND ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY ON THE USE OF COVID-19 STIMULUS FUNDS
On the Public Health Emergency Bill
1. The Catholic Professionals Society of PNG calls on the Government to allow for punlic consultation on the Public Health Emergency Bill before it can be debated and decided by the MPs in Parliament. We had earlier called for the end to the State of Emergency (SOE) arguing that the SOE was not based on local data and evidence on C-19 in PNG. There was no explanation on how the 8 cases were first tested positive then went negative and how there have been no spread of the virus. There has been no deaths yet recorded from C-19 in PNG.
Instead the SOE has inflicted more suffering to the economy, children’s education and abuses by the enforcement agencies of the SOE. People continue to suffer from over-regulation and restrictions with negative impacts on their daily social and economic livelihood. Businesses especially the MSMEs are suffering and children’s education is in tatters.
The annoucement by the Government to regulate a new normal by legislation is a major call. Just how will it be done? What rights of the people will be regulated and restricted with implication on the human rights of people under the Constitution? How does the law regulate a person’s conduct? Who will be the regulating authority? What are the types and range of penalties for breaches of these laws? People want answers to these sort of questions before the bill can be debated and passed into law.
The Government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. This is a principle of democracy no leader or adviser can meddle with. In the State of Emergency the vigilance to ensure Government remains connected and relevant to the people is a very crucial test.
We know that the Parliamentary Committee on State of Emergency has not visited provinces to collect views and experiences of the affected people and sectors during the last 2 months of the extended SOE and yet made recommendation to Parliament for the SOE to be extended for another 2 months. The recommendations were not supported by facts, data, and evidence on the ground. It mainly used the global situation and drummed up excessive fear and anxiety to recommend for the SOE extension.
We caution the Government against placing too much reliance on advices coming from funding donors both internal and external including the international UN agencies like the WHO. Our own local advisers must be consulted. Local advisers must do their own research and analyses than simply relying on external experts.
We are cautiously worried that the proposed Public Health Emergency Bill which seems more about controlling people and suppressing our Constitutional rights and freedoms than of preventing coronavirus.
We call on the Government to circulate and consult widely on the proposed law before introducing it in Parliament. Government line agencies such as police, health, ombudsman commission and other constitutional offices, civil society, and churches including the nurses, doctors, teachers etc., who are and will be the frontliners in the fight against coronavirus need to be consulted and their views considered before making any decisions.
In the meantime we also think that the bill should not be rushed. There is no justification to rush the bill. Current facts do not support SOE. All possible ramifications of the bill have to be thoroughly thought through with wider consultation with relevant think tank institutions, agencies, churches and civil society, especially if such a bill is the first in the world (as remarked by the PM in Parliament).
On Covid-19 Stimulus Funds
2. We are also concerned with the Treasurer’s issuing of warrants for the release of Covid-19 stilumus funds to Provincial Governments and DDAs as implementing agencies without a clear process in place for accountability and transparaency. It is doubtful whether the funds will be used for the intended purpose and for the impacted people. This is like throwing away public money into pitless political sinkholes.
Paul Harricknen, OL