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Removal of cultural objects from PNG Parliament unlawful : Court rules

THE National Court has declared that the damaging and removal of cultural objects at the Parliament House by Speaker Theodore Zurenuoc in 2013 was unlawful and unconstitutional. 
The court, presided by Justice David Cannings, gave six months from yesterday for Zurenuoc, chairman of Parliament House committee and L&A Construction to repair, return or replace the 19 masks and a totem pole that were damaged and removed from the Parliament. 
The court further ordered that Zurenuoc, chairman of Parliament House committee, L&A Construction and all other persons are permanently restrained from further damaging and removing the objects of cultural decoration at the Parliament House, unless such decisions are approved by the Parliament at a meeting.

The court found that the objects that were damaged and removed were of national cultural property, protected under the National Cultural Property (Preservation) Act.
The court also found that the objects were protected works under the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Acts 2000 and only the artists and their descendants have the exclusive right to allow transformation of the their works.

East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare and National Museum and Art Gallery director Dr Andrew Moutu commenced proceedings in March 2014, challenging Zurenuoc’s decision to remove the objects because they said the objects were of national cultural property.
Between November and December 2013 a total of 19 masks on the lintel at the main entrance and a totem pole in the Grand Hall of Parliament were removed and damaged on the authority of the Speaker.
Zurenuoc was of the view that the objects contained unworthy images that carried offensive and inappropriate messages, and portrayed spiritual beings that were contrary to the Christian beliefs.
Cannings stated in his 44-page judgment that Zurenuoc’s actions were motivated by his religious beliefs. 
The court ruled that Zurenuoc was not allowed to interfere with freedom of others and he was not entitled to force his religion on other persons. The National/PIN
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