- Isabella Saleu
Press Conference on the Constitutional Law and Reform
Boroko, Port Moresby: The Catholic Professionals Society of Papua New Guinea has made a stern call to the Government to bring to the public’s attention the actual texts of the Amendment Bill including the reports and recommendations of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC).
This call was made by Mr Paul Harricknen, President of the Catholic Professionals Society (CPS) during a Press Conference held at the St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, Boroko on 9th September, in response to the Government’s K2 million Inquiry by the CLRC to declare PNG as a Christian State and the proposed K5 million Unity Pillar.
Speaking at the press conference, Mr. Harricknen, said they are not against the proposals but are very much concerned about the motives behind the way it was proposed as it would cause a major ideological shift from freedom of religion and separation of Church and State.
He pointed out that while the CLRC had 11 weeks to conduct a survey nationwide on the inquiry, they concluded within 6 weeks stating that 18, 000 people out of the 23, 000 surveyed responded positively to the proposed amendments. Mr. Paul said this 23, 000 people surveyed do not represent PNG and urged the people not to take the issue lightly as it was of serious matter.
“The survey should have in depth questions on the theological, biblical, historical, constitutional and legal aspects of the matter included, not just a Yes/No format where people choose an alternative without actually knowing why”, he stressed.
He stated that if the amendments were executed, it would be a violation to Sections 45 and 46 of the Constitution; protection to religious freedom (Sec 45) and the right to freedom of expression (Sec 46) and Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Making known the CPS’s thoughts on the Unity Pillar, Mr. Paul said it was totally absurd as PNG being a land of a thousand tribes, languages and cultures was already united by this diversity provided for by our founding fathers and the pillar was only a foreign object in our midst.
He went on to say that in a time when the country is facing an economic crisis, we cannot afford to spend money like this. “While our schools, hospitals, roads and other essential services deteriorate, while lawlessness increases every day, the government sees it fit to build a K5 million Unity Pillar”, he said.
Referring to the proposals he said even though these were matters of faith, the PNG Council of Churches were not involved in the discussions. He said the Catholic Church existed in PNG before the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and has contributed to the planning and the development of the Constitution and should have been asked for submissions together with other Churches.
Mr. Michael Varpik, Treasurer of the CPS, who was part of the audience also shared his point of view on the proposed declaration saying there was one thing the government couldn’t do and that was legislate a person’s love and devotion for God; no one needs law to practice their faith.
The CPS is now calling on the government to let the people decide in the 2022 General Elections as that would be democratic.
The Press Conference finished off with a Q&A session. It was well attended by the different media houses.
This press conference also comes as support to the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI on the same issue.