Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review
Opposition leader in National Parliament of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Belden Namah says the Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape and his government has exposed PNG, especially the people of Western and West Sepik, to the coronavirus. As Mr. Namah stated, the K2 million promised for the COVID-19 operations hasn’t reached the provincial teams in the three border provinces. It’s important to mark, that these provinces are of direct interest as they are border on Indonesia.
However, B. Namah called for the arrest of PNG Prime Minister, Hon. James Marape for his involvement in the purchase of two diesel generators from Israel in 2014, when Mr. Marape served as Finance Minister. The statement by B. Namah followed the arrest of former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last Saturday over the matter. He is now facing one count of abuse of office, one count of official corruption and one count of misappropriating K50 million (US$14,57 million) of public funds to buy the two generators.
Commenting on the calls for arrest by B. Namah, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Hon J. Marape, stated that he had nothing to hide on the deal. «It is ironic that O’Neill was locked up by police last Saturday because of a complaint (lodged) by Namah six years ago,» Mr. Marape said. Reported that Namah was the first to meet him at the cell (at the Boroko police station in Port Moresby) and was all apologetic. «The worst of enemies are now the best of friends, or so it seems» – marked Mr. Marape and also added « If I have done something wrong in relation to the Israeli generators deal, why didn’t Namah include me in the complaint to police back in 2014 […] I reiterate that I will not stop police from arresting anyone, including myself, when investigating matters of public concern. I am not one to run away from police or avoid getting arrested. I have already stated publicly that I will explain in court, as a State witness, my role in this whole saga of the Israeli generators». However, according to Mr. Marape, the Government’s first major achievement since taking office on the 29th of May 2019, was «taking back PNG from the corruption that had affected the country for many years». According to the statement of the Director of the Police National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate Detective Chief Superintendent Mathew Damaru, several others involved in the purchase of the two Israeli-made generators at a cost of K50 million (US$14,57 million).
Southern Highlands Governor William Powi has joined the ruling Pangu Party from the People’s National Congress (PNC). Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates Dr. Aphonse Gelu announced Mr. Powi’s membership with Pangu. It’s important to mark, that Mr. Powi is a former member of People’s National Congress Party and had resigned, making his intentions known to join Pangu but due to delay in processing his registration, it took him almost a year to be formally recognised. Dr. Gelu also announced that two other MPs who moved were Sir Mekere Morauta, who joined National Alliance Party, while Douglas Tomuriesa left Pangu Party and joined Our Development Party. However, Dr. Gelu called on political parties to work hard in preparation for the 2022 national elections.
However, former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill warned the PNG Government to stop making «secret» deals with international financial agencies in regards to the repayments of existing external loans. According to Mr. O’Neill, the Treasury Department had «begged the Paris Club of creditor nations to suspend [PNG’s] debt service obligations». The Paris Club is a group of officials from major creditor countries whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries. Mr. O’Neill stated that «the secret deal places the PNG economy in the category of desperate failing economies and will cost the country as it further gives away sovereignty to foreign financial directors». According to Peter O’Neill, PNG could face «a further credit ratings downgrade and higher interest rates».
Meanwhile, Peter O’Neill is the leader of the People’s National Congress Party (PNC) says that that PNC still remains strong and intact with a solid team of 17 members in Parliament. Mr. O’Neill also added that party looked to the June 2 Parliament session when their newest member (Member for Menyamya) takes his seat. Mr. O’Neill’s statement comes after a couple of MPs officially announced their resignation in the last week and joining new parties. They were Southern Highlands Governor William Powi (Pangu Pati) and Minister for Immigration and Border Relations Westly Nukundj (Liberal Party).
PNG Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey said that it is «highly» unlikely that the State of Emergency (SoE) will be extended when it expires on June 2 next week. Parliament is expected to sit next week to discuss what Government has decided on the state of emergency declared on 23rd of March 2020 in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The SoE was initially for 14 days but was extended from April to June 2 by the Government after eight confirmed cases of the COVID-19 were reported in the country. All have reportedly recovered but the PNG Government is continuing its response plan to stop it from entering the country and containing its spread. Meanwhile, the extension of the state of emergency will be the first item on the agenda when Parliament sits next week, says Acting Clerk to Parliament Kala Aufa. Prime Minister James Marape is expected to address Parliament on the status of the COVID-19 response plan and stimulus package.