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PM O'Neill : We are not denying citizens rights

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says his Government is not trying to deny the rights of Papua New Guineans to stand for public office.

Section 55 of the National Constitution guarantees all citizens the same rights, privileges, obligations and duties irrespective of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, religion or sex.
Responding to a series of questions from the Member for Rabaul concerning the proposed changes to the Organic Law to increase election nomination fees, Mr. O'Neill says because of the ever increasing costs of running elections in the country, candidates who want to contest must sacrifice something.
"Now we are reaching close to K400m+ to run 2017 elections.
"And the cost keeps on going up because the number of candidates are increasing.
"Yes, Government ultimately collects tax from you and I and every individual to pay (for the elections). So if candidates want to run for public office, there must be certain sacrifices we all have to make.
"And one of them is cost." Mr. O'Neill says money from the election fees will go back to the Electoral Commission help it conduct the exercise.
Prime Minister O'Neill says the proposed changes will take effect when the Electoral Commission agrees to it and only when Parliament votes in favour of altering the Organic Law on Elections.
"It depends entirely on the advice we get from the Electoral Commission. If it says, 'yes that would meet the costs of running the elections, let's put it now before the writs are issued', then we've got now and April 20th, about 5 or 6 months to go and there is sufficient time for us to make Constitutional amendments necessary.

"But our lawyers, the State Solicitor's Office and Government lawyers think there is adequate time to make these changes, because I understand it was over 20-years ago when the last (nomination fee) increases were done.
"And between then and now, the cost of doing elections have increased dramatically."
The Opposition says, it will take the Government to court, if Parliament passes its proposal to increase election nomination fees from K1000 to K10,000 for the 2017 National Election.
Leader Don Polye Polye questioned why the government is hell bent on proposing what he describes as an unConstitutional and draconian law which will limit a vast majority of aspiring candidates to contest the 111 seats in the country.
He brushed aside Mr. O’Neill’s justification that the increase is to offset a lack of funding for the Electoral Commission, saying it is a laughing stock.
The Ombudsman Commission had taken a similar matter to court in 1981 when the Government had first legislated to increase the nomination fee from K100 to K1000.
But Mr. O'Neill had told Parliament, the 1981 Supreme Court decision was also overturned in a subsequent decision allowing the increase. NBC/PNG Today
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