Home > Corruption, Papua New Guinea > Prisoners threaten breakout in support of campaign against Judicial Conduct law

Prisoners threaten breakout in support of campaign against Judicial Conduct law

Alexander Rheeney

Papua New Guinea’s under siege court judges have found an unlikely ally with prisoners threatening to break out of jails en mass “in protest” at the O’Neill government’s Judicial Conduct Act.

The country’s jail boss, Correctional Services acting commissioner Martin Balthazar, has told government broadcaster NBC that commanding officers at the country’s 20 prisons have been put on high alert after an inmate called the NBC’s Current Issues program last night to warn the public.

The inmate told the radio program that there would be a mass breakout if the government did not repeal the controversial law.

Mr Balthazar, who has also come under scrutiny in recent days over allegations one of his female jail wardens had sex 15 times with serial bank robber William Kapris, told NBC that prisoners lost their rights to criticize government policies when they were jailed.

“For a prisoner to make such aggressive comments against the constitutional obligations of government then that particular prisoner should be disciplined under the normal disciplinary process of disciplining a prisoner within the jail administration. With prisoners who raise that type of comments, it does indicate that there is certain elements within the prison confinement that are trying to create a lot of problems for prison administration. And I would like to use this opportunity to alert my prison commanders to be on the lookout and keep their ears sharp for such prisoners who tend to misbehave and make all sorts of comments,” he said.

The prisoners are the latest group to join a growing tide of critics of the law comprising students from PNG’s four major universities, the Community Coalition Against Corruption (CCAC), the PNG Trade Union Congress (PNGTUC) and the PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGCCI).

The PNGTUC and its affiliated unions yesterday demanded the O’Neill government make the repealing of the law the first business for parliament when it reconvenes next Tuesday April 3 reports PNG daily newspaper Post-Courier. Failure to comply could see members of the PNG National Airlines Employees Association, PNG National Doctors Association, PNG Bankers and Financial Institution Workers Union, Telecommunication Workers Union and Public Employees Association walk off their jobs, which could potentially cripple the economy and add to the problems the O’Neill government is curently experiencing with the PNG LNG Project in Southern Highlands.

The unions’ ultimatum will put more pressure on the O’Neill government to repeal the law despite assurances by Maprik MP Gabriel Kapris, the chair of the PNG Constitutional Law Reform Commission, that the law will not be implemented until a nationwide public consultation process is concluded.

The Melanesian Alliance Party (MA), which is represented in parliament by PNG’s sole woman MP and Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu, has also reportedly come out supporting last Friday’s protest by thousands of students from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG).

The Judicial Conduct Act gives powers to cabinet and parliament to regulate the conduct of National and Supreme Court judges, which legal experts say will remove the independence of the judiciary and make it vulnerable to the executive and the legislature.

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  1. March 28, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    All plan protest should go ahead. it’s very hard To comprehen what is going on at this time. greed and selfish at its best.

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