Sovereignty must never be sacrificed: Lelang

Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Lelang has cautioned Marape-Rosso Government not to sacrifice our sovereignty in the haste to sign international agreements with other nations, whatever the motivation.

The Opposition Leader acknowledges that our Constitution anticipates such Defence Co-operation agreements with other countries under Section 206. Furthermore, Parliament has passed an enabling Act to guide how to deal with such agreements.

However, the Opposition Leader has cautioned the Government to be careful not to underestimate the effect of such agreements on our legal system and the potential to compromise our national security interest, Constitution, and sovereignty.

He said this while commenting on the reported immunity against criminal prosecution and civil action been offered to members of the US military under the Ship Rider Agreement and the Defence Cooperation Frame-Work Agreement.

Lelang said, “While we await the opportunity for Parliament to receive and debate the validity of these agreements, it is important to remind the Government of its duty to protect our Constitution at all times.”

“I need not remind the Government that our Supreme Court has struck down unconstitutional aspects of a similar agreement in the past. That was a Supreme Court Reference challenging the validity of aspects of an agreement (including immunity against criminal prosecution) between PNG and Australia involving a police cooperation arrangement.”

“So apart from the scrutiny in Parliament, in which Government may use its numerical strength to endorse the agreements, our Courts will not hesitate to review the agreements if the validity of these agreements are challenged in Court.”

“I note the growing public interest on the topic and ask our people not to pre-empt and sensationalize the matter. We are yet to read the text of the agreement. I can assure our people that their leaders in the Opposition will consider the legal implications of the agreements when presented in Parliament and debate and vote to uphold our national interest in keeping with our Constitution and laws.”