26 Mar 2012

PNG Prime Minister defends controversial judicial bill

7:44 am on 26 March 2012

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has defended his government's controversial new powers to suspend judges.

The government last week rushed through parliament the Judicial Conduct Bill 2012, giving the legislature the power to suspend judges if they fail to meet a set of nine rules governing their conduct.

On Friday several thousand students took to the streets of Port Moresby to demand its repeal.

In a national address, Mr O'Neill said the law is not draconian and will not erode the impartiality of judges, despite high-profile criticism from former prime minister Sir Michael Somare and sections of PNG's legal community.

He says the law was enacted for the sake of clarity and to better define and strengthen the role and conduct of national and Supreme Court judges.

Mr O'Neill says elections this year will go ahead as scheduled with the issuing of election writs on April 27 and for polling to commence in June.