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Carvings must be returned

Tuesday 31 May 2016 | Published in Regional

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Papua New Guinea’s Speaker Theodore Zurenuoc has been ordered by the National Court to replace, repair or return the totem and 19 carvings removed from Parliament on his directions in 2013.

This must be done within six months.

Justice David Cannings also ordered that the replacement of these cultural decorations will be at the cost of the National Parliament.

This is after the court found the actions of the Speaker unlawful, breaching the National Cultural Property (Preservation) Act.

The removal of the images also infringes the rights of individuals as is stipulated in section 45 of the Constitution.

Zurenuoc when ordering the removal of the “pagan images” described it a part of the process of transforming and modernising the PNG parliament, guided by Christian principles.

He had also said that for a country as diverse as PNG, the instilling of the ideology of Christianity would help create a national unity.

He said that the images he ordered removed depicted spirits and beliefs that were contrary to Christian principles.

However, Justice Cannings thsi week said that the Speaker was merely attempting to compel his religious beliefs upon others, thereby breaching section 45 of the Constitution.

He said that section 45 gives the right for PNG citizens to practice any religion and maintain their beliefs.

Justice Cannings also said that even though the artifacts were not registered as National Cultural Properties, they are still recognised as such.

This means that if they are to be removed, approval has to be sought in parliament and this did not happen.

Justice Cannings also said that the authority of the creators of the carvings and totems were not sought and therefore the Speaker’s actions breached the Copyright Act.

National Museum and Art Gallery Director Dr Andrew Moutu, who is one of the plaintiffs, is expected to give an official statement on the decision tomorrow.

The other plaintiff is East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare.

- Post-Courier