PARLIAMENT, government and the electoral commissioner do not have constitutional powers to defer elections, Sir Arnold Amet said.
The former chief justice and Madang regional MP said at a media conference that the Constitution (section 105) was explicit that the life of parliament was fixed for five years and could not be extended.
Sir Arnold said section 105 set three timeframes to set dates for an election. The first was the ordinary five years such as now that elections were due.
He said the second occasion for the Electoral Commission to fix dates was in the last 12 months of parliament where a vote of no-confidence was successful against a prime minister. The House is then dissolved.
Sir Arnold said the one that was relied upon wrongly was the deferral of election for six months using section 246 of the Constitution on the extension of the term of parliament.
He said the extension could only occur when, on the National Executive Council’s advice, the head of state declared a national emergency or when there was a declaration of war with another country.
Sir Arnold said what was advised by the electoral commissioner was okay as long as the dates of polling and the return of writs were fixed.
“The electoral commissioner does not have the inherent powers to defer the election. He only has powers to fix the dates for the issue of writs.”
Meanwhile, opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu said the government had itself to blame because, in the past, parliament rose in March to give MPs time to check the common roll and help the Electoral Commission to work on the rolls.
“Now the intending candidates are submitting names and sitting MPs are sitting unnecessarily in parliament passing draconian laws which is destroying our Constitution,” she said.