Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Hon. James Marape hinted that the PNG Government is likely to extend the State of Emergency through to the end of the recent year.
According to Mr. Marape, COVID-19 threat was very real and the threat of PNG being ravaged by coronavirus had not been completely eliminated for Papua New Guinea. «Much of the responsibilities will be passed back to the provincial governments as well as provincial leadership led by the governors to take control and ensuring that our country is not stopped,» said Hon. James Marape.
The National Superannuation Fund (Nasfund) expects to pay out around K260 million to members who lost their jobs since the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Papua New Guinea. Chief Executive Officer Ian Tarutia said proper vetting of applications was important so that only those who had «actually lost their jobs from the impact of the pandemic» could be assisted: «They must meet the criteria, they must be unemployed, not stood down, and they’ve got to be actually terminated». Members of the National Superannuation Fund are waiting for Parliament to approve the amendment to the Superannuation (General Provisions) Act 2013 so that they can withdraw their retirement savings. The Parliament is expected to be recalled on the first week of next month.
Papua New Guinea media reported that a reshuffle of ministerial portfolios between Attorney-General and Justice Minister Davis Steven and Inter-Government Relations Minister Pila Niningi was cancelled last week, it has been revealed. Deputy Prime Minister Steven and Niningi both referred queries on the matter to Prime Minister James Marape who they said had the «prerogative» to make or revoke appointments as he wished. As earlier stated, Steven would no longer be Minister for Justice and Attorney-General but to take over Niningi’s portfolio while remaining as deputy prime minister.
Opposition Leader Belden Namah has called on Police Minister Bryan Kramer to make public the internal audit he conducted on the K23 million COVID-19 funds. According to Mr. Namah, Kramer had committed himself to completing the internal audit in seven days. It is now more than 21 days. In turn, Mr. Kramer said that an external audit would be conducted into the K23mil «should the internal audit show evidence that it had been misused» Namah criticised the Government for failing to address the “hot spot” areas by putting more funding into protecting the border provinces. Namah, the Vanimo-Green Member of Parliament from West Sepik, said Indonesia’s COVID-19 cases were increasing at an alarming rate. As a result, Mr. Namah called on the Government to focus on West Sepik and Western who shared land with Indonesia and also added that «most of the COVID-19 funding is being wasted in Port Moresby».
The Community Correction Centre (CCC) in Bulolo (Morobe Province), will soon be built with support funding from the National Planning Department. This was announced by Correctional Services Minister Chris Nangoi during a visit to the proposed site. Mr. Nangoi thanked National Planning Minister and Bulolo MP Sam Basil for directing funding support for the centre which would provide relief for the overcrowding experienced at Buimo jail. Nangoi said overcrowding was experienced in jails throughout the country and the issue would be alleviated in a step by step approach.
The PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PNGCCI) has expressed its concern on what is described as a disconnect between provincial authorities and business communities operating within those jurisdictions.
PNGCCI calls on the national government to address these concerns in the forthcoming supplementary budget. The PNGCCI is calling on the national government to address those provinces which are performing poorly as regards to business to provincial government cooperation. According to PNGCCI President «This is a critical issue as we work through the COVID-19 pandemic». «Some provincial administrations are doing well and should be congratulated! National Capital District is a good example […] and the governor is to be applauded accordingly».
Provinces with cooperation problems included Eastern New Britain, where «the problems have been longstanding» and Madang with «uncertainty about the appointment of a provincial administrator has contributed to the problems». The term of office of the Provincial Administrator of Madang expired on 21 February 2020, but no one has yet been appointed. In April 2020 the National Executive of the Public Employees Association, John Bivi, called on Madang Governor Peter Yama to put aside any political differences and start working together form the people of Madang. The position of Provincial Administrator is also important for the signing of financial instruments for the disbursement of funds.
PNG State of Emergency Controller David Manning, under the authority of Prime Minister Marape, has ordered that the Goroka by-election be deferred until after the state-of-emergency, that Mr Marape said yesterday would be the end of the year. The Government claimed there are no cases of COVID-19 in the country, but the by-election would be stopped even though the Menyamya by-election had taken place.
Earlier, PNG politician Bire Kimisopa forced the courts to order a by-election is calling on the national government to release funds for the immediate conduct of the Goroka Open by-election. Mr Kimisopa, who was the former MP warned that any further delay will mean that the constitutional rights of the people to have a representative in parliament will be breached. He fears that further delay will mean that if a by election is not conducted immediately and when the 18-months before a national general election for 2022 comes up, then there will be no more by election and Goroka will not have a Member in Parliament.
In turn, People’s National Congress (PNC) Party welcomed ousted Goroka MP Henry Ame as their candidate for the Goroka by-election. PNC deputy leader and Yangoru-Saussia MP Richard Maru was in Goroka to officially endorse Mr Ame who vacated the Goroka Open seat following a National Court decision for by-election was handed down in February. Mr Maru officially accepted the candidate from EHP on behalf of the PNC party leader Peter O’Neil and thanked Mr Ame’s supporters for allowing him run under the PNC. According to Mr. Ame, the reasons for him contesting the by-election under PNC was to gain infrastructural developments for the Eastern Highlands capital. He referred to the K100 million-plus Goroka airport terminal, the K20 million Fresh Produce Development Agency head office, the University of Goroka dormitories and the state-of-the-art Goroka Provincial Hospital.
Central Province deputy provincial administrator, Edward Kila, appeared before the Waigani Committal Court to face charges of abuse of office, false pretence, conspiring to defraud, dishonest application, and allegedly misappropriating more than K34.4 million belonging to Central LNG infrastructure development grants fund infrastructure unit. The investigations, made upon request of acting Central provincial administrator, Francis Koaba, allege that an audit (dated 14 August 2019) showed that between January 8, 2013, and July 4, 2018, 71 cheques were paid out by Kila and his accomplices, which totalled more than K34.4m.