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PNG Government plans to create human rights commission: Steven

Papua New Guinea Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Davis Steven says the Government is planning to create a human rights commission to address related issues in the country.

He told the 8th PNG Human Rights Film Festival organised by the United Nations team at the Port Moresby Arts Theatre that the Government recognised the challenges of not just having a constitution that enshrined the rights of people but doing something about them.

The film festival was organised to capture 17 sustainable development goals in PNG.

“I look back 42 years and all I see is a journey of a nation that cannot be separated with the principles of human rights because in the constitutional planning since 1975, a very clear advent and determination on the part of our forefathers who  framed the constitution to make sure that our nation observe and respect not only the UN charters but also the principles of human rights and freedom,” Steven said.

He also refered to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s address in a recent UN general assembly where he re-emphasised the thinking that PNG’s founding fathers had when they addressed human rights and freedom in the constitution. 

It was to have a careful balance between individual rights and freedom.

“The PM’s address made reference to the connection between human rights and the political and economic rights that the people must be able to achieve in order that we may achieve integral human development.”

Steven said he was pleased to notice that the UN organising team found a topic to draw attention to the important topic of human rights that needed Government support and support from  communities at large, including sponsors and  stakeholders.

“In the next few months, we want to be able to pass the necessary legislation to create a human rights commission in this country with a passage of a body that is established seemingly to monitor obligations to support and coordinate human rights issues.”

Steven said this would make meaningful progress for people and to help them achieve human rights goals.

Meanwhile, human rights should not be seen as a new thing in Papua New Guinea as it has been in the constitution since independence, says Transparency International PNG director Richard Kassman.

He said during the 8th Papua New Guinea Human Rights Film Festival that the vision of Transparency International was a country where people lived in a constitution of democracy and where government, politics and businesses operated free from cruelty and subject to human rights obligations.

“I want to make reference to the constitution about the goals and guiding principles of our constitution because when the authors of our constitution put that together before 1975 and the legislative council accepted that during independence, they directed that future governments be fully aware of the goals and the guiding principles,” Kassman said.

He said the guiding principles straight after the national goals talked of rights and obligations of our nation.
“So when we talk about human rights, this is not something that should be imposed on us by the United Nation which we are a proud member of. It is also enshrined in our constitution.”

Kassman said it was good that Transparency International continued to remind the leaders and political leaders about the democracy in order for them to be guided in developing plans to build the nation. 

“In order to build our nation, we need to refer back to the guiding principles that are enshrined in our constitution that are quite consistent, as well as the national development goals and sustainable goals too.”

Kassman said the country had subscribed to the convention of human rights and brought freely an independent nation that had the responsibility and obligations of human rights to fulfil according to the constitution.
Kassman, who is also the director, corporate affairs, for Total Exploration and Production, said the biggest problem in the country was the lack of courage and conviction.

“Until Papua New Guineans change that and become courageous, we are not going to progress,” he said. The company participated in the human rights assessment project.

He said currently a team of human rights officials from the UN were doing an impact assessment on Total in the Papua LNG Project.
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