Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta today said that the decision by police last week to prevent the Salvation Army and the PNG Council of Churches from holding a march and rally in support of the United National “Stand Up, Take Action” campaign represented a very worrying trend.
“Why would anyone in authority prevent this rally from taking place?” Sir Mekere said.
“All that these church and civil society representatives wished to do was to express their concern about poverty and
“What is wrong with that?
“We should be encouraging such debate.
“But it seems the Government wants no public discussion of anything.
“Where is Michael Somare?
“This is not the Michael Somare that
“Where have our democratic rights and freedoms gone under this Somare-NA Government?
“This is yet another example of the trend of this Government of turning PNG into a Mugabe-type regime.
“The important institutions of state, like the police, are fast being turned into compliant tool kits by the government for its political interest.”
“Section 46 of our Constitution expressly provides for freedom of expression; Section 47 provides for the right to freedom of assembly and association; Section 57 provides for enforcement of these guaranteed rights and freedoms.
“Is it not the job of the Police to uphold our Constitution and our laws? “Their action to disallow the Churches’ rally is a violation of the Constitution.”
Sir Mekere said that a similar incident occurred last week, when police prevented a peaceful March from being held in Madang, to protest against the
“The march had been approved by the provincial police authorities, but apparently a government minister complained to police headquarters, who overturned the decision and banned the march.”
Sir Mekere said the police hierarchy should remember they were not the political servants of the government.
“The police force is an independent constitutional authority.
“But it seems the police are now completely at the bidding of the government, stifling debate and preventing citizens from expressing their views.”
“What are the government and the police scared of?
The reason given for not approving the Madang march was that due to recent unrest over the position, power and conduct of some Asians, protest marches had been banned throughout the country.
“In whose interests is the country being governed?
A foreign power?
Foreign business interests?
“Certainly not for Papua New Guineans.”
Sir Mekere said that Captain John Kerari of the Salvation Army had made a very forceful point when questioning the decision to ban the church rally when he said: “we do not want to be seen as humbugs; we were planning on a peaceful rally with prayer and singing.”
Sir Mekere urged all Papua New Guineans to speak out and to insist on protection of their constitutional rights.