Don Wiseman spoke with the chairman of Transparency International PNG, Lawrence Stephens, about the issues affecting the country and began by asking whether Papua New Guinea was embroiled in a constitutional crisis.
LAWRENCE STEPHENS: We are regularly in a situation which [we] would call a crisis and it is usually brought on by people testing the constitution to the limits and this appears to be what we are facing now. Once again people challenging the various arms of government and attempting to test how far they can go.
DON WISEMAN: You have called for the watchdog agencies to step up. Now I know that the ombudsman commission has come out and made a few comments recently but there hasn't been much otherwise has there?
STEPHENS: It is not necessarily something which is made public. We have certainly called for everybody who has a role in sorting this crap out to become involved in sorting it out. We know that some will not be in a position to say what they are doing but the aim is to make sure that people do not sit on their hands and just think they can be spectators when in fact it involves us all.
It is not just a matter of demonstrating, it is a matter of people holding public office. People given public trust, assessing the situation, examining their powers and their responsibilities and seeing if in fact they have a role and if so get on with taking their role, playing their role.
There have been attempts to hold protests this week. The police though have summoned the perennial protesters and said that they are not going to allow it.
WISEMAN: This has been going on for a long time of course, police just don't allow planned public assembly because of the potential threat they say. Is this right?
STEPHENS: Well it is certainly right that they say that, and I think back to some years ago where in saying that they tear gassed a group of women who were protesting over the murders of young men, I think at least four or five were killed at that time. The mothers were protesting and they were tear gassed on the basis that this was a threat to public order.
The reality is that we unfortunately tend to use the rules incorrectly and inappropriately. People should be permitted to protest and if they have a reason to protest they should not feel threatened by the police each time they wish to talk.
WISEMAN: Now the opposition leader has been suspended as a result of an election petition but the election was four years ago and the next election is just over a year away and there seem to be some other odd aspects about all of this do you find that mysterious?
STEPHENS: Not mysterious. I have just come from standing in the queue at the lands department today after years and years of delays. We are all familiar with the delays in life in the tropics, it is not extraordinary it is just extremely annoying.
In the case of the leader of the opposition to have the case drag on for so long must be extremely frustrating to him and it is pretty disappointing but we would hope that somewhere in the cellars of the courts there are people meeting and discussing what it is that makes justice be delayed to this extent and how we can improve on it.
And in our case we will continue to call respectfully on the judicial system to look at how strange it is that things take so long to be handled.