Justice David Cannings delivered the decision of the Human Rights proceeding filed in 2014 by Grand Chief Sir Michal Somare and the managing director of the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, Dr. Andrew Moutu.
The court found that the action by Parliament Speaker Theo Zurenuoc to restore, reform and modernise the parliament house was unlawful as it infringed on section 45 of the constitution and section 9 of the national cultural property.
Justice Cannings declared that the damage, dismantling and removal of the objects of cultural decoration at parliament house, particularly the 19 masks on the lintel at the main entrance and the totem in the grand hall infringed section 45 of the constitution thus were unlawful.
The court declared the objects of cultural decoration were “national cultural property” and their dismantling and removal breached section 9 of the National Cultural Property (Preservation) Act.
The court also found that the cultural objects were works protected under the Copyright and Neighboring Rights act 2000, which meant that only the “authors” had the authority to transform the works or be subject of mutilation. This right was not accorded to the creators of the cultural object, which saw the court also declare the transformation and mutilation of the objects as unlawful.
Justice Cannings issued an order restraining Zurenuoc, the Parliamentary committee responsible for the removal of the objects and L&A Construction from further damaging, dismantling and removing the objects of cultural decoration at the National Parliament house.
He also ordered that the above defendants shall within six months repair, return or replace all those “cultural decoration” at the cost of the National Parliament.
Zurenuoc, the Parliamentary committee responsible for the removal of the objects and L&A Construction are all now permanently restrained from further damaging, dismantling and removing objects of cultural decoration at Parliament house.
In Nov 2013, L&A Construction began the removal of 19 masks on the lintel at the main entrance of the Parliament. On the first week of December 2013, L&A started dismantling the totem in the grand hall.
A Human Right proceeding against the removal of the cultural decorations commenced on March 8, 2014.
Photo credit: Radio NZ