PNG Election: Major defeats, MPs hold office till Aug 5

(August 1, 2022) East Sepik candidates returning their Writs to Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai (center).

Papua New Guinea will no longer be the same as the defeats of experienced and long serving MPs, Patrick Pruaitch, Davis Steven, John Simon and Dr Allan Marat have completely changed the landscape of PNG politics, Post Courier says. 

Similar upsets are expected in coming days as counting proceeds in more than 70 electorates around the country. 

Pruaitch, an economist by profession, lost the Aitape Lumi seat he has held for since 2002, the year another stable and highly respected politician and lawyer, Dr Allan Marat entered Parliament. Joining them a decade later were John Simon who took the Maprik Open seat in East Sepik Province and Davis Steven who took the Esa-ala seat in Milne Bay Province. 

Deputy National Alliance party leader Walter Schnaubelt and East Sepik Governor elect Allan Bird thanked the people of Aitape-Lumi for their support in Pruaitch over the last 20 years. 

More notable names have fallen in this election, including Rabaul MP Dr Allan Marat, Maprik MP John Simon, Huon-Gulf MP Ross Seymour, ENB Governor Nakikus Konga, Koroba-Kopiago MP Petrus Thomas, Nawaeb MP Kennedy Wenge, and Menyama MP Benjamin Philip. All lost their seats to first time MPs. 

Retaining his seat, PNG Party leader Belden Namah will serve his fourth term as Vanimo-Green River MP after being declared last Friday. He was flanked by supporters when he was declared in Vanimo after a lengthy counting and elimination process that spanned the last two weeks. 

MPs hold office till Aug 5 says Attorney General

Meanwhile, the extension of the Return of Writ to Friday, August 5, 2022 has now extended the term of all members of the 10th PNG Parliament. 

PNG Secretary for Department of Justice and Attorney General, Dr Eric Kwa said: “Now that the Electoral Commissioner has, with the approval of the Head of State, extended the date for the return of writs to 5th August 2022, all Members of the 10th Parliament will cease to hold office on the 5th August 2022. 

“This also means that the Prime Minister and Ministers continue to hold those offices. There is no such thing as a care-taker Prime Minister, Minister or government.” 

“We now await the Speaker to set the new date for the first sitting of Parliament for the 11th Parliament.” 

“Let me assure the people of our beautiful country that according to our view, the decision of the Electoral Commissioner to extend the date for the return of writs for Friday 5th August 2022 is valid and according to the existing law,” Dr Kwa said. “As many of you are aware, a number of legal commentators have argued that there is no room for extension under the current constitutional framework.”

“Our State Solicitor also provided similar advice to the Electoral Commission. However, after further consultations with the Electoral Commission and our legal team, we all agreed that the Electoral Commissioner can extend the date for the return of writs.” 

His comments come after former chief justice Sir Arnold Amet said: “There were no Constitutional provisions for any extension of writs beyond the fifth anniversary of the date fixed for the return of the writs, which is –  July 29.”