Jun 26, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

End of the road for Somare

AN era came to an end on April 4 when Papua New Guinea’s ‘father of the nation’ and one of the longest serving parliamentarians in the Pacific and the Commonwealth, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare took up his seat in Parliament for one last time to bid farewell. Exactly 49 years earlier, a younger Michael Somare walked into the House of Assembly in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea as a politician for the first time on April 4, 1968.

Sir Michael was retiring and his last sitting was also the conclusion of PNG’s ninth parliament before it adjourned for the general elections in late June. The former prime minister was given a standing ovation as he gave his farewell speech to parliament. Sir Michael, who served this last fiveyear parliament term as East Sepik Governor after his ousting as prime minister in 2011, said it had been a privilege to have served the people of Papua New Guinea.

“I practise national unity and I am proud to be called the father of the nation,” said the man known in PNG as the ‘Grand Chief’. Highly respected throughout the Pacific Islands region, Sir Michael was instrumental in ushering PNG to independence from Australia in 1975, upon which he served as the country’s first prime minister.

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PM O’Neill upbeat

PNG prepares to go to the polls

RIDING on the perceived success of the government’s core policies, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is confident of retaining government after the 2017 National Elections. Equally vying for the same is Opposition Leader Don Polye with other hopefuls including People’s Progress Party leader Ben Micah, National Alliance leader Patrick Pruaitch and Pangu Party leader Sam Basil.

They have publicly expressed interest - all are sitting Members of Parliament who will be seeking re-election in the polls which will open with nominations on April 27. Polling will start on June 24 and ends on July 8. Counting will start immediately and a new government will be expected after July 24.

Coming from the outside is former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta who has indicated interest in re-entering politics from retirement. He has his sights set on the top job as well. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is banking on his coalition government’s core policies to return him and his party to power after the elections. The policies include tuition fee free education, free primary health care and infrastructure development, among others.

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Juffa stands his ground

Vocal governor an example to all

THE Pacific need more legislators like Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro Province in Northern Papua New Guinea. He is a one-man army fighting to rid his country of the scourge of corruption which has deep roots and threatens to destroy the country from within. Juffa’s latest action has been to expose the construction of a provincial drug storage facility in his province at the cost of around $AUD217,000. This facility – basically a warehouse – has not been completed because the contractor was a local nurse with no knowledge of building or carpentry.

The situation has been compounded by the fact that the nurse was paid for five years while not doing any work for the Health Ministry. PNG’s central government paid upfront for the drug storage facility which is meant to house medicines and equipment for distribution to small, remote centres.

These centres are pivotal points for the health and wellbeing of a community which mainly lives in rural areas from which it is expensive to travel. A year after Juffa raised the matter with Health Minister Michael Malabag there has been no investigation into how the contract was awarded.

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Disciplined services must be held to account

THE appalling behaviour by members of Papua New Guinea’s security forces this month must be condemned by every member of the community. When soldiers and police officers run amok, indiscriminately firing weapons, how can members of the public feel safe? It is unacceptable in any democracy that members of the disciplined services should take matters – or indeed the law – into their own hands. Governments and the people rely on police officers and armed troops to ensure national safety and security. In this latest incident members of the security forces and their wives have been injured by the irresponsible actions of a few selfish individuals.

There is little wonder that the law and order sector in Papua New Guinea is so weak when troops can leave their barracks fully armed on a vengeful spree of an area populated by civilians. How were these men able to draw arms from what is presumably a secure military facility? Who gave permission for the arms to be taken out of the barracks and onto the street when there was no threat to the population? The incident at Boroko on January 1 points to glaring systemic weaknesses which exist in at least one Papua New Guinea Defence Force facility. 

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O’Neill survives vote

PNG PRESSURE Political turmoil, student unrest and strikes cripple economy.

PRIME MINISTER Peter O’Neill has convincingly defeated the vote of no confidence in him to remain in office despite uncertainties created by nationwide protests and strikes by pilots, transport workers, and doctors. The opposition moved a motion of no-confidence in his leadership but only managed to secure 21 votes – well short of the 56 required.

Parliamentarians debated for around 90 minutes in a special court-ordered sitting, broadcast throughout PNG. After more than two years of political crisis over a long-running corruption investigation culminated in police shooting at students at a protest last month, the parliament sat on June 22 to determine the future of Peter O’Neill.

The opposition leader, Don Polye, had been nominated as an alternative leader but both he and O’Neill were prevented from speaking after the parliamentary debate was shut down. The Supreme Court had ordered the parliament to be recalled to vote on the opposition’s motion, and huge crowds of Papua New Guineans queued on that Friday morning to attend. Police had been placed on high alert.

This was the opposition’s fourth attempt to hold a vote of no-confidence in Mr O’Neill but in the end it couldn’t convince enough governments MPs to switch sides. The Prime Minister has been under pressure since early 2014 when a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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