I see many confused Hela men and women commenting erratically on the successful election of Hon. Undialu Philip MP, as the Provincial Governor by the Hela Provincial Assembly today at the Assembly Hall, Tari, Hela Province. The Assembly was adjourned to today from 28th June 2016, when the Acting Chairman and Deputy Governor Hon. Thomas Potape, MPA acted in a manner contrary to law, undermined due process of the Assembly and defied lawful direction from the Minister for Inter Government Relations when he did the following:
1. Did not follow the "Order of the Day" of the Assembly, which amongst others were but including the following matters; -
1.2 A Minute Silence in recognition of the late
1.3 Swearing in of Mr. Luke Panguma as
President-elect for Hulia LLG;
1.4 Election of the Provincial Governor.
2. Willfully ignored and disobeyed a lawful Court Order, endorsing the judicial recount in which Mr. Luke Panguma was successfully declared as the properly elected President for Hulia LLG. Instead, he allowed Mr. Eric Yawas, the former president to sit throughout the aborted Assembly sitting and deliberately refused to swear in Mr. Panguma, in defiance of a lawful Court Order, as endorsed by the Electoral Commission as being proper and as recognized as legitimate President-elect by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Inter Government Relations, Hon. Chief Sir Leo Dion, MP;
3. Willfully allowed Hon. Efale Babe, MPA the President for Mt Bosavi LLG to sit in the Assembly when this particular LLG is an integral part of Nipa/Kutubu electorate in the Southern Highlands Province. Sir Leo Dion in his letter dated 24th June 2016, and subsequent letter dated 27th June 2016, clearly advised the Deputy Governor that Hon. Efale Babe, MPA cannot participate in the Assembly unless proclaimed otherwise by the National Executive Council based on proper report submitted by the Department of Inter Government Relations;
4. Without even following the Order of the Day, he unlawfully and indeed in contempt of the Court Order and in defiance of lawful directions or advice from the Minister responsible for Inter Government Relations, attempted to adjourn the Assembly meeting to 28th July 2016.
These and many more incidences of unruliness and chaotic business or conduct of the Assembly on 28th June 2016, was caused primarily by the Deputy Governor as acting Chairman, refusing to obey the Court Order, follow due processes of the Assembly and be guided by lawful directions and advice coming from the Ministry responsible for Inter Government Relations. If law and lawful orders and directions from relevant authorities cannot be fully obeyed at the whim of, or orchestrated by persons infatuated by sheer lust for political power and greed for wealth, any reasonable man may find such conduct distasteful, insane, and outrageous at a scale never being experienced before by any Hela person or anyone in this country for that matter.
Having said that, I now take you back to proceedings of the Assembly today (5th July 2016). There were two letters dated 4th July 2016 from the Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Inter Government Relations addressed to Hon. Thomas Potape, as the Deputy Governor which collectively provided the following advice:
1. Legitimate members of the Assembly were these;
A. Members of National Parliament:
(a) Hon. James Marape, MP for Tari/ Pori;
(b) Hon. Francis Potape, MP for Komo/Margarima
(c) Hon. Philip Undialu, MP for Koroba/Kopiago
B. LLG Presidents
(a) Hon. Markus Kapia, MPA
(b) Hon. Charlie Apalu, MPA
(c) Hon. Thomas Tawi, MPA
(d) Hon. Luke Panguma, MPA
(e) Hon. Guluwa Wakinda, MPA
(f) Hon. Yalo Hape, MPA
C. Nominated Members
(a) Hon. Jacinta Hayape, MPA
(b) Hon. Olene Yawai, MPA
Secondly, the Minister responsible also advised the Deputy Governor that the legitimate quorum for the Assembly sitting today was seven (7) out of the total twelve (12) members of the Assembly.
This morning, the Assembly Clerk Mr. Watson Ebela provided the list of names of these twelve (12) members of the Assembly to Sergeant-at-arms, and PSC Inspector Daniel Yangen for the roll call.
In early to the Assembly Hall in Tari as per the list of names were Hon. James Marape, MP, Hon. Philip Undialu, MP, Hon. Luke Panguma, MPA, Hon. Markus Kapia, MPA, Hon. Charlie Apalu, MPA, Hon. Thomas Tawi, MPA and Hon. Olene Yawai, MPA. These were an integral members of the Undialu team for the election of the Provincial Governor.
When Hon. Francis Potape, MP and his team arrived for the Assembly sitting, he had with him, the three (3) elected Presidents for Komo, Upper Wage and Lower Wage, including the Women Representative. In total, Hon. Francis Potape had with him a total of five (5) members for the election of the Provincial Governor.
If you were in Hela this morning, all opportunities were given for Hon. Francis Potape and four (4) other members of the Assembly to join the rest in the Hall for the election. In fact, the Assembly Clerk had to delay the sitting for more than an hour for these five (5) legitimate members of the Assembly to come in and participate in the sitting today. Hon. Thomas Potape, MPA decided to join the queue with Hon. Francis Potape and others and walked away.
By their collective actions, the Deputy Governor and the four members of the Assembly, including Francis Potape, MP abstained from the scheduled Assembly sitting this morning. No person in any manner or form blocked them from entry into the Assembly Hall, hence I urge good thinking Hela citizens to desist from taking sides and get the facts from those who witnessed the event as it unfolded today.
I must also state from here that this event or as you may say it as an incident was witnessed by the Deputy Secretary for Inter Government Relations and Director Legal for the same Department, the Electoral Commission, the Security Forces, senior public servants and the general public in Hela.
Finally, the Clerk of Assembly, Watson Ebela Chaired the Assembly sitting today. Is it legal and why?
Under the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local-level Governments, the Provincial Government Administration Act, and the Hela Provincial Assembly Standing Orders, the Deputy Governor can chair the meeting of the Assembly in the absence of the Chairman. Where notice is given for the meeting of the Assembly and the Deputy Governor who is supposed to be the acting Chairman is absent or does not want to chair the meeting, Standing Order 12 of the Hela Provincial Assembly states in no uncertain terms that the Assembly Clerk can act as the Chairman of the Assembly for the election of the Provincial Governor. Standing Order 12 takes queue from Standing Orders 9, 10, and 11, respectively.
In effect, the Assembly Clerk had the power under Standing Order 12 to chair the meeting today and in my respectful view, he acted in accordance with the law. However, should someone has any issue at all in respect of the Assembly Clerk chairing the meeting, and wants to challenge his powers under Standing Order 12, he or she is at liberty to run to court and seek judicial intervention. That's always the appropriate forum as opposed to purportedly holding another supposed meeting guised as an Assembly sitting.
Two wrongs does not make it right. Albert Einstein once said, "It is an insanity for a person to do the same thing again and again with the expectation that the result would be different."
If the rumors on this social media forum regarding another purported meeting supposedly chaired by the Deputy Governor is true, I would like to make the following observations:
1. Hon. Thomas Potape as Deputy Governor and acting Chairman had or did not have the quorum as advised by the Department of Inter Government Relations, hence any such meeting is unlawful, illegal and would be of no effect at all;
2. The Assembly Clerk and his deputy did not participate in the unlawful sitting of the Assembly at all for the reasons herein above. No other person can take their place as ruled by the National Court in the matter OS No 821 of 2015 between Late Anderson Agiru v. Hon Francis Potape & Others;
3. The Deputy Governor is further in breach of the Court Order, by allowing Mr. Erick Yawas to include him as an integral part of his purported sitting of the Assembly when the latter was dismissed as the President for Hulia LLG in a judicial recount;
4. The Deputy Governor has more than once ignored and abrogated lawful advice or directions from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Inter Government Relations;
5. Chief Magistrate of PNG in a letter dated 4th July 2016 appointed Senior Provincial Magistrate (SPM) Mr. Edward Kupo from Southern Highlands to swear in the President elect for Hulia LLG, Hon. Luke Panguma, MPA upon request from the Assembly Clerk in his letter dated 1st July 2016. The Chief Magistrate clearly did not want Hela Provincial Magistrate Mr. Vincent Iralia to participate in any swearing in ceremony given his suspicious conduct on 29th December 2015 when he unlawfully swore in Hon. Francis Potape, MP as the Governor for Hela, whose election was later nullified by the National Court on 14th June 2016 in favour of the late Governor Anderson Pawa Agiru. If Vincent did participate, any such swearing in, if attempted, will not be lawful as the only approved Magistrate to do so is Mr. Edward Kupo SPM.
These are my views only and subject to be proven otherwise in a court of law.
Until then the only lawfully elected Provincial Governor for Hela by the Assembly today, 5th July 2016, is Hon. Philip Undialu, MP by 7 to nil. He has been formally sworn in by the Senior Provincial Magistrate (SPM) from Mendi, Mr. Edward Kupo.