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Papua New Guinea

Oversight keeps National Anthem out of law for 29 years

BY MATTHEW VARI

IT is the song that defines the country, a song that has touched the hearts of many both at home and abroad. As the country is set to celebrate its 43rd Independence Day anniversary, many may not be aware the National Anthem, its words and music, were all written by the late Thomas Shacklady (pictured right), who passed on 12 years ago at the age of 88. It is the National Anthem “O Arise All You Sons Of This Land.

Sadly, information has come to light that every effort made to sing the song of all songs in Papua New Guinea from 1975 through to a better part of 2000 was just a song, not an anthem by law.

That’s right, our National Anthem was never incorporated into the National Identity Act of 1971. Passion, energy, and pride exerted for a song recognised by law only 18 years ago.

When the anthem was chosen, it was in a national song competition that was run painstakingly side by side with a looming September 16, 1975, deadline.

The Cabinet decided on the now anthem among four other finalists played across national radio six days shy of September 16.

Apparently, when adopted by Cabinet for Independence, the actual song, its lyrics and music were never incorporated in the legislation until 2000 when the second lot amendments was made specifically to insert it, after additions were made in 1996 and 2005 thereafter.

As part of the demands of the Constitution, the creation of national symbols was to be outlined in the National Identity Act. They were the creation of the Independent States of Papua New Guinea, sovereign boundaries, and national symbols such as a national flag, emblem, national motto, seal, and anthem.

Oversight in the law indicated lack of literal declaration of words and music via schedules in the law, which to this day, despite the amendment, is yet to be physically incorporated into the amended law that has included the anthem since 2000. An issue, according to Mr Davis, needs to be remedied despite the coverage in the Act for the national song since 2000.

“It could have been a oversight or lack of attention for something we have taken for granted by previous leaders,” Mr Davis said.

“The schedule is not meant to cover anything and everything, if there are additional requirements or information necessary then they put them in the schedules like the pledge, national seal and flag.

“As you can see from the legislation, the Governor-General, based on advice of NEC, would have endorsed that. But we would have to go to the necessary NEC decision for those details. The fact that it is not scheduled does not necessarily mean it is defective. It might need to be incorporated which is a matter that we need to look at in some detail.”

He further said the need to clarify and insert a clear statement about the national anthem and its adoption and proper use became obvious in the 2000 amendments to the 1971 Act. “For a long period it was an important issue of identity under the Constitution. It is a symbol of nationalism, but we can safely say what is an important matter or symbol of identification was for the some strange reason, overlooked or ignored.

“But as I said earlier, the current legislative arrangements are sufficient.”

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