Westminister System of Government in Melanesia

The beginning of colonization was an era seen in which colonized territories began learning and adopting the styles and the systems of their colonizers. The colonizers especially the Europeans bring in new types of ideas which are now seen as parallel to the old system that has been existed for almost the rest of the entire life before being contact with the Europeans. Thus throughout the world people experience different types of colonial contact and the way their territories were administered with different model of governance being adopted.

The places around the globe experience different types of governance in which nationalism was the force behind these which sought for self governance. However the pacific island countries have gained independence in which they adopt their own preferred modelled as the Westminster from Great Britain and the presidential system from the United States and from French. However this essay will outline the Westminster system and the functions in which the Melanesian countries have adopted and exercised the system on their own where the Melanesian system or politics also existed.

The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of Parliament of the United Kingdom. Most of the procedures of the Westminster system have originated with the conventions, practices and precedents of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which are a part of what is known as the Constitution of the United Kingdom.

Unlike the uncodified or unwritten British constitution, most countries that use the Westminster system have codified system in which they have written constitution to govern themself without external influence or control. However uncodified principles, practices and precedents continue to play a significant role in most countries as many constitutions do not specify important elements of procedure. For instance some older constitutions using the Westminster system do not mention the existence of the cabinet and or the prime minister, because these offices were taken for granted by the authors of these constitutions.

Sometimes these conventions, reserve powers and other influences collide in times of crisis, and in such times the weaknesses of the unwritten aspects of the Westminster system, as well as the strengths of the Westminster system’s flexibility are put to the test in parliament. Important features of the Westminster system include the following, although not all of the following aspects have been preserved in every Westminster-derived system but only few were preserved in the codified constitution of many independent democratic countries who have adopted the British constitution.

Many independent states were granted independence by their former colonizers in which they were guaranteed their political rights to govern themselves with their own national rights. And hence these are the Westminster features which guaranteed a nation state of its own with their own codified constitution that came under British rule adopted the Westminster system. A sovereign or head of state is the nominal or legal and constitutional holder of executive power, and holds numerous reserve powers in the operation of the government, but whose daily duties mainly consist of performing ceremonial functions.

Examples include Queen Elizabeth II, the Governor-General in independent Commonwealth countries, or the presidents of many countries and state/provincial governors in republican federal systems. And the head of government (or head of the executive) was known as the Prime Minister (PM). While the head of government is appointed by the head of state in which the constitutional conference is that the person appointed must be supported by the majority of the elected Members of Parliament. For instance in PNG the elected members or the representatives elect the prime minister.

Furthermore if more than half of elected parliamentarians belong to the same political party, then the person appointed is typically the head of that party. Moreover a de facto executive branch usually made up of members of the legislature with the senior members of the executive in a cabinet led by the head of government such members execute executive authority on behalf of the nominal executive authority. In PNG the ministers with ministerial portfolios. The independent civil service which advises on and implements decisions of those ministers.

Civil servants are permanent and can expect merit-based selection processes and continuity of employment when governments change. These are the bureaucrats who held public office in the day-to-day operation of the government. Thus parliamentary opposition (a multi-party system), the opposition to the government which are elected legislature, often bicameral, in which at least one house is elected, although unicameral systems also exist; legislative members are usually elected by district in first-past-the-post elections (as opposed to country-wide proportional representation).

Exceptions to this are New Zealand, which changed in 1993 to use mixed-member proportional representation. Israel, which has always used country wide proportional representation and Australia, which uses voting. And also Papua New Guinea uses the preferential voting systems which are optional in which it has three choices in voting the member of parliaments. Furthermore the lower house of parliament with an ability to dismiss a government by withholding (or blocking) Supply (rejecting a budget), passing a motion of no confidence, or defeating a confidence motion.

The Westminster system enables a government to be defeated, or forced into a general election, independently of a new government being chosen. For example on august 2011 Somare government was dismissed by the parliament and Peter O’Neill was elected as the new Prime Minister at the floor of parliament. And finally a parliament which can be dissolved and elections called at any time by the parliament alone with absolute majority in favours.

As in Melanesia some features are experience by Papua New Guinea and some other Melanesian island as well but these nations amend their constitution on the bases of their own cultural and traditional aspects. The Melanesian Way is in itself a human experience. Cut off from the rest of the world for many centuries, Melanesians nevertheless survived as a people. Now that Melanesians are finally connected with the world, Melanesians suddenly see themselves through the world mirror. Melanesians will see themselves true self image or will see themselves in the images and shadows of others?

Should Melanesians choose to ape the West and the East or can they choose to be themselves in their philosophy, their life-styles and their whole beings? Melanesians are responsible for their progress in the modern world now and beyond. Melanesian do not have much control about what other people or Western countries may or may not think of them. For decades after Independence they have been ranked against Western modern indexes, only to emerge second rated. As they embrace the modern world they should not forget in a hurry that they have a right to be here not as carbon copies but authentic Papua New Guineans and Melanesians.

Whilst acknowledging the past along with its constraints, they also now recognize the good in the new ways and mindful of its bad ways of today. With the freedom that we as Melanesian have can make conscious decisions to opt for what is best in both worlds. In the contemporary PNG society still steep in culture and tradition it will be unwise for the learned leaders especially the MPs of today to forget in a hurry that they are, where they have come from and where they are going. We may be new to modern institutions but we are not new to human relations and associations.

It is important for us to give proper dignity and place to our history. We can only be ourselves if we accept who we are rather than denying our autonomy. We must establish our own authentic political philosophy, The Melanesian Way. One of the most essential elements of Melanesian Society is its close human relations. Closeness does create tensions which erupt but these are like waves that splash and subside. Giving and taking form an integral part of our society. Co-operation and mutual support, especially in times of need and crisis, are part of our living experiences.

Confrontation and competition are kept to a minimum. In villages, whenever a person needs food, firewood, leaves, water or help building a house, they will freely ask for help from relatives. Of course not all help is readily given. But to those who share, help is never denied them. It often depends on whether the person seeking help has given it in the past. Before a young man becomes accepted as an adult, he will want to build a house. All he has to do is make his wishes known, clear the site, cut the first few posts and all his relatives will come to his aid.

They will cut posts and saplings, and collect kunai grass or sago leaves and prongs for blinds or walls. It is up to the young man and his family to provide food and drink for the workers. Work is done not to earn promotion (except in the sense of achievement) but to fulfil a need, be it artistic or purely functional. Members of different families and clans will contribute to the work either to discharge an obligation or to create new obligations, or to give honour to an endeared personal relationship.

To work for others is part of Melanesian spirit of caring for others. If we could realise this we would know the deep foundation on which many of our government policies could take off. Unfortunately many of our learned people as well as leaders of today, being born Melanesians, think that all that we have known about ourselves as a people is all that is to know. If we can stop and reflect and do some self soul searching about ourselves and our ways, The Melanesian Way, we will be surprised that all that we have learnt is not all that is to know.

The Melanesian context towards Westminster The unexceptional impact of colonialism has itself been diverse with not only the colonial masters reveals a variety of political styles reflecting their indigenous political cultures but the timing of the colonial impact has been responsible for major differences in the attitudes of colonisers to colonised and particular circumstances of physical environment and historical events (notably the Second World War) have affected the Melanesian societies in different ways.

For example, Australian colonialism in the New Guinea highlands in the 1950s was a very different thing from German colonialism in coastal New Guinea at the end of the nineteenth century, partly because of differences in the political cultures of the two colonisers and partly because of differences in the circumstances of contact, but primarily because prevailing attitudes towards colonialism in the late nineteenth century were rather different from the attitudes prevailing in the mid twentieth century.

Similarly, the impact of the French on New Caledonia might have been very different if that territory had had no nickel. However beyond this diversity colonialism has had a universal impact in breaking down traditional isolation and facilitating the movement of people, goods and ideas, and fostering a national consciousness within the geographical boundaries of the colonial system. The colonial powers wanted to develop this wider consciousness within the framework of institutions and norms imported, for the most part, from outside.

(Consider, for instance the Westminster model to Papua New Guinea and the quasi-presidential system in New Caledonia). At the extremes of this generalisation in Fiji the British administration actively sought to preserve the elements of the traditional polity. In PNG policy has been clearly inherited and the Melanesian political culture has been suppressed by direct political action and by heavy immigration. As in other parts of the world the attempt to modernise Melanesian societies and to create national politics in the colonialist’s image has been only partially successful.

like colonised people elsewhere, Melanesians have already shown a remarkable capacity for adapting modernity to tradition and tradition to modernity and for maintaining, side by side with occasional overlapping, the forms and institutions of traditional politics with those of the introduced system. For instance in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon’s and Vanuatu separatist and micro-nationalist movements have emerged to contest the political boundaries of the modern states.

What is more, colonialism is very rarely a pleasant experience for the colonised and although Melanesians suffered its share of forced labour disciplinary team and the rest for most Melanesians the colonial impact judged against the wider remove of world history was relatively gentle. Without wishing to press the point too far – and recognising that in some respects this is a condemnation of Australian colonial rule there have been few countries in which, as in Papua New Guinea, the indigenous government, elected on a nationalist platform, has sought to postpone the granting of independence.

This observation and the implications of it have been elaborated until the recent interest in large scale mining enterprise. Australian indifference denied New Guineans even the advantage of a shared anti-colonial resentment. The British by being manipulative were also involved in fostering cultural homogenisation to some economic interaction and some constructions of institutions for conflict resolution, and above all the beginnings of national consciousness.

However Australia has denied dependency such an infrastructure for nationhood and also has denied on the participation in modern imperialism its crucial legitimation of having laid the foundations of modern statehood in Melanesia. Melanesian context not conducive to the application of Westminster system PNG has been among the top 60 failed states for at least some two decades with the Westminster system. The leaders are truly some of the worst in the world.

They are extremely incompetent, incapable of paying attention to details, they have no idea of how to constructive policies and reforms to old and dysfunctional policies, they are completely out of touch with their people and so they don’t know what the real concerns of their people are and they don’t know when work starts and play begins and at least 90% of them have extremely poor comprehensive capacity. It is alarming and a total recipe for disaster for law makers of a country to be viewed this way.

Melanesian Politics worked well during the transition period of PNG’s self-governance and immediately post independence but it sure isn’t an evolving system. National or international politics is an evolving politics and it does so to keep pace with the changing global environment. The prime minister of PNG like Somare, Chan, Namaliu and etc,, to name a few are the Melanesian Chiefs and rightly so because the politics they advocated to and practised over the last almost four decades has been Melanesian Chiefly politic.

As long as they were still around they had the right under Melanesian chiefly law to rule supreme and make all the decisions, whether those decisions were in their interests or in the interests of their people. The Melanesian Grand Chief sir Michael Somare is the leader of his people in his own right and the people could not argue or even disliked these leaders for over the last 30 years.

Lately there have been a lot of frustration and resentment about the way the poor Grand Chief has run the country but when looking back to the history, nothing has changed in the way previous governments have run the country whether that was his or their own government. The Melanesian Chiefly politics is evident right at the top of every government. The only difference between the views of people now and the past is that the new generation of Papua New Guineans now have become much more informed and aware.

This awareness is attributed to the advent of mass median including social media and an increase in the number of graduates from foreign institutions. For instance the Julian Moti saga and Somare’s support for Frank Banimarama are two stark example of the evidence of Melanesian Chiefly Politics. Somare defended his decisions on these two issues, implying that according to Melanesian tradition, he could not turn his back on them and as a Melanesian Chief as it was his duty to protect them.

Thus PNG needs to free from this barnacle and based the governance on the constitution and uphold the constitution as it the only fundamental way to prevent corruption and based on good tangible decision to run the country. Whether it is in business, career, sports or politics, the Melanesian Way will not get us anywhere because it does not provide a competitive edge and it’s not evolving. PNG should break free from the barnacles of the Melanesian Way. That is the view and the only way this nation can move forward.

The pattern of executive functions within a Westminster System is quite complex. In real meaning the head of state usually a monarch is the ceremonial figurehead who is the theoretical, nominal or de jure source of executive power within the system. In PNG the Governor General is the representative of the monarch in the parliament who performs ceremonial function on behalf of the Queen of England. In practice such a figure does not actively exercise executive powers even though executive authority may be exercised in his / her name.

The head of government is the prime minister who will ideally have the support of a majority in the responsible house, and must in any case be able to ensure the existence of no absolute majority against the government. As in the case of PNG we have multi-party system in which the party has the absolute majority of MPs will form the next government in coalition with other parties. The Executive authority within a Westminster System is essentially exercised by the Cabinet along with more senior ministers. Although the head of government usually has the dominant role within the ministry.

In the United Kingdom, the sovereign theoretically holds executive authority, even though the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Cabinet effectively implement executive powers. In a parliamentary republic like India, the President is the de jure executive, even though executive powers are essentially instituted by the Prime Minister of India and the Council of Ministers. As an example, the Prime Minister and Cabinet generally must seek the permission of the head of state when carrying out executive functions.

If, for instance the British Prime Minister wished to dissolve parliament in order for a general election to take place, the Prime Minister is constitutionally bound to request permission from the sovereign in order to attain such a wish. This power (along with others such as appointing ministers in the government, appointing diplomats, declaring war, and signing treaties, for example) are known as the Royal Prerogative, which in modern times are exercised by the sovereign solely on the advice of the Prime Minister. And hence since the British sovereign is a constitutional monarch, he or she abides by the advice of his or her ministers, except when executing reserve powers in times of crisis.

This custom also occurs in other Westminster Systems in the world, in consequence from the influence of British colonial rule. In Commonwealth Realms such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand, the Prime Minister is obligated to seek permission from the Governor-General when implementing executive decisions, in a manner similar to the British practice. The parallel scenario also exists in Commonwealth Republics, such as India or Trinidad and Tobago, where there is a President in which the Westminster system is practise.

Furthermore the experience of the Westminster system of government in Melanesia was a very important aspect in the Melanesian context. Many Melanesian countries adopted parliamentary and the presidential system of government in which democracy was the main source that will be preserved and exercised. The granting of independence by the former colonizers in Melanesia with its adopted type of government and making of its constitution was the foundation of the types of government that should be adopted.

Thus the experience of the Westminster system in Melanesia was the same as that of Great Britain. Others like New Zealand and Fiji have a quasi-parliamentary and a presidential system. And hence Great Britain has uncodified constitution while some countries in Melanesia have codified constitution. For instance in the case of Papua New Guinea, the constitution provides for a Westminster type of democracy with a unicameral legislature elected by universal adult suffrage. A Westminster system is a parliamentary system of democracy based on responsible ministerial government.

In the case of PNG system the prime minister is elected by the parliament and can only be removed by a majority vote of no confidence with an alternative named person taking over as prime minister. However a vote of no confidence is not permitted during the first 18 months of office (originally six months before being amended in 1991 and this was further amended and extended in 2011 to 36 months), and a successful vote of no confidence in the last years of five year term to a general election.

Furthermore in PNG the constitution provides that the head of the state acts on all matters only with and in accordance with the advice of the national executive council (NEC) (section 86{2}). The national executive council (NEC) which is comprised of ministers chosen by the prime minister is the prime constitutional body. The constitution states that the NEC should comprise of not less than six, and no more than a quarter of the total number of parliamentary members (MPs). It is given that there are 109 members and there may only be 27 ministers.

The constitution also provides that the NEC is a parliamentary executive and therefore no person who is not a member of parliament is eligible to be appointed as a minister. The function of the Westminster system in PNG The adoption of the constitution in any country is the cornerstone of liberal democratic political system. The constitution of PNG was adopted along with the British base Westminster system in which PNG has a codified constitution as that of Great Britain which has uncodified constitution.

However the constitution of PNG allocates duties, powers and the functions to the various institution of government and defines the relationship between individuals and the state. The constitution set the fundamental rules, which establish the powers and responsibilities of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government. The constitution also enumerates the rights of citizens in relationship to each other and to the government (as in the bill of rights) and stipulates a procedure for amending the bill.

Thus the general function and the characteristics of the constitution of PNG is that it limits the power of the government and it sets out the structure of the government. The adoption of the Westminster system was based on the constitution of each nation being independent from the control of an external government. Constitution can take a variety of different forms. In most countries and almost all liberal democracies, so called written constitution exists. These draw together major constitutional rules in a single authoritative document.

For instance the first example of such a document was the US constitution, drawn up at the Philadelphia convention in 1787. The written constitution itself is a form of a supreme law which stands above status laws made by the legislature. In this way, codified constitution both entrench major constitutional rules and invest the courts with the power of judicial review, making them guardians of the constitution. Britain is an example of a liberal democracy which does not have a written constitution. In this case the supreme constitutional authority rests with the legislature, which is the British parliament.

However in the PNG constitution power essentially resides with the NEC, its committees (e. g. the national planning and budget priorities committees) and senior bureaucrats. Thus apart from the enhanced power of parliament, which has been demonstrated through its ability to change the prime ministers, the constitution has built certain checks to this power. The constitution provides protection for the basic rights of individuals and the independence of the judiciary to protect those rights. And also the constitution provides for certain watchdog bodies as checks to the power of the executive.

The prime example is the ombudsman commission, which has powers to hear complaints of mismanagement, favours and corruption by the bureaucracy, government ministers and parliamentarians. The ombudsmen commission is also charged with the task of enforcing the leadership code, which aims to curb the undue use of positions of power to accumulate personal wealth which is common in PNG and in Melanesia. Conclusion The roles of head of state and head of government often are held by different people in a parliamentary system.

For example, a country might have a prime minister who acts as its head of government and a monarch who acts as its head of state. Some countries that have a parliamentary system also have a president instead of a monarch, who acts as the head of state. A country that has both a prime minister and a president is sometimes said to have a semi-presidential system of government, although it is more closely related to a parliamentary system because of the power held by the legislature and prime minister in such a system.

However leadership and social stratification in Melanesia seeks to distinguish between a stereotype of the typical Melanesian traditional society as egalitarian and communalistic with leadership determined by competition between men of influence and the reality of socially hierarchical, status-conscious societies in which heredity frequently played an important part in the selection of leaders.

Without wishing to detract from this recent emphasis on social stratification (except occasionally to query the source of the stereotype), I think it is important that we not lose sight of the essential elements of truth in the stereotype. Social stratification in Melanesian traditional societies was not particularly formalised and that traditional institutions such as sorcery and warfare, as well as social attitudes to wealth, were frequently used as a means of preventing forceful individuals or groups from rising too far above the common herd.

The traditional societies appear to have been more formally stratified and the status ordering, having been consolidated by colonial rule, has so far proved enduring. Whatever the situation may have been, there is now a well entrenched (if not universally accepted) belief that egalitarianism and communalism prevailed in pre-contact Melanesia, and that these values are integral to ‘the Melanesian Way’ our peoples are communalistic and communalism is the basis for our traditional way of life.

Our values therefore must be communalistic is which the exercise of the Westminster system in the Melanesian context will not be effective. And hence though the function and the application of the features of Westminster system alone will be effective as that of Great Britain but the politics and the system of Melanesia cannot be abolish by the leaders and also the pillars of PNGs constitution as based on the Melanesian political features in which we want to preserve our own PNG ways.