PNG among countries with unbroken constitution

Papua New Guinea is among the top quarter countries in the world to maintain its constitution for 40 years.

As the nation celebrates its 40th Independence in September, advisor and consultant to the Constitutional Planning Committee from 1972 to 1975 Prof Ted Wolfers said the country’s homegrown constitution has been upheld over the years despite political crisis.

Prof Wolfers made this known during the school of law seminar on the country’s constitution at the University of Papua New Guinea.

He said unlike many other countries; the constitution was not negotiated over the table by the former colonizers.

There was widespread consultation and hundreds of locals who were asked to make submissions, as much as 8,000 people involved.

He said since 1789 of the French revolution, Papua New Guinea is now amongst the top quarter in the world of the unbroken constitutional democracies.

Prof Wolfers said the average national constitution around the world would last for 17 years and by the 50th year only 19 percent keep going.

He outlined that those Latin American constitutions last 12 years, in Africa a bit over 10 years, in Western Europe 33 years and in Asia about 19.

And in a significant period of this country’s history, there has been constitutional crisis over time in the examples of the 1997 Sandline crisis and recently the 2011-2012 political impasse.

“What has struck me as significant in every case has been the willingness of Papua New Guinean political leaders acting humbly in order to maintain constitutional continuity.

The first being in 1979 where then Prime Minister Michael Somare accepted defeat after a political riot to change the government.

The same was with the Sandline affair when Julius Chan stood aside as PM, whatever its technical character, Prof Wolfers said it meant that the constitution must go ahead.

He said again during the impasse in 2011, the grand chief Sir Michael Somare did not take to the streets to encourage riots but accepted the very complex situation and let the others make their way through.

He added the constitution then also included amended procedures recognizing that society changes over time.