40 Years Of The PNG Constitution

by Delly Waigeno – EMTV Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea is now amongst the top quarter in the world of the unbroken constitutional democracies.

This was revealed by Professor Ted Wolfers, one of the advisors and consultants of the Constitutional Planning Committee from 1972 to 1975.

Professor Wolfers was speaking at the University of Papua New Guinea, where the School of Law is hosting a two-day-conference on the 40 years of the PNG Constitution.

Present today were founding fathers of the PNG Constitution, among them, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and Sir John Kaputin.

The University of Papua New Guinea’s School of Law has been teaching Constitutional Law as a compulsory topic since its inception in 1965.

Professor Ted Wolfers was there in the early 70’s as an advisor and consultant when the Constitution was being created.

Today, he says the PNG Constitution is the most inclusive in the world.

While many constitutions around the world last on average about 17 years, the PNG Constitution has remained unchanged since inception.

The one who believed strongly in a home-grown Constitution was the then Chief Minister, and later the country’s first Prime Minister, the Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.

Senior statesman Sir John Kaputin reflected on the days before the constitution and the challenges that existed then.

The founding fathers acknowledged those who contributed to the formation of the Constitution and despite notable threats like the first vote of no confidence that saw Sir Michael replaced; the 1997 Sandline Affair; and 2012 Impasse, Prof. Wolfer says he is always impressed at the willingness of PNG politicians to allow constitutional continuity.

The PNG constitution was home-grown; not imposed from outside authorities, nor negotiated over the table by the former regime and not a law of the former colonial country.

There was wide consultation, with over 100 public meetings around PNG where people spoke freely about what they believed needed to be included in the National Constitution.


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