Unity pole sectarian, illegal: Chief


THE plan to erect a unity pole in the grand hall of Parliament House was deemed “unconstitutional because it represents the views of a sectarian group of evangelical Christians”, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has said.

Sir Michael was reacting to announcement by Parliament Speaker, Job Pomat, about restoring the cultural decorations that were destroyed and removed from the precincts of the National Parliament in 2013 by former Speaker, Theo Zurenuoc.

As part of a reformist agenda of the previous Speaker to modernize the Parliament and to purge it from perceived evil connections, the artistic decorations, incised on the lintel beneath the façade and on the totem pole inside the grand hall of the National Parliament were cut and removed.

“The current Speaker, has made a good decision to honour and comply with the decision of the National Court,” Sir Michael said.

“However, it must be made clear that the decision of the National Court does not mean aspects of the reformist project initiated by the Speaker will become part of the restoration work.

“This includes the proposal for a new unity pole to be introduced into the grand hall of the National Parliament.

“An inclusion of the proposed unity pole would be unconstitutional because it represents the views of a sectarian group of evangelical Christians.

“The court has ruled that this sectarian interest group of Christian evangelicals cannot impose their views on the freedom of thought, religion and conscience on the rest of Papua New Guinea.

“They would have to initiate a fresh legal proceeding to introduce the unity pole into the National Parliament”.

“When we wrote our Constitution, we consulted our people widely. We open the preamble to our Constitution by acknowledging the worthy customs of our ancestors the source of identity and intellectual strength.

“When we built the National Parliament in the 1980s, we wanted it to be a monumental statement that captures the diversity of our cultural heritage. The design of the building reflected a process of us coming together as a nation of many and diverse cultures.

“We did this so that our children and their children will know where we came from and where we might be going to.”

Sir Michael and the former Director of the National Museum, Dr Andrew Moutu, challenged the actions of the Speaker in court.

In May 2016, the National Court ruled in favour of the two plaintiffs citing breaches to the National Cultural Property (Preservation) Act and the freedom of thought, religion and conscience enshrined in the Constitution.

The presiding judge, Justice David Cannings, issued several court orders including the restoration of the cultural decorations within 6 months of the decision. An appeal by the Solicitor General on behalf of the former Speaker was pursued with the Supreme Court.

However, the appeal was thrown out of court for want of prosecution.

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