Uncertainty surrounds West Sepik Governorship in PNG
Uncertainty continues to surround the position of Governor in Papua New Guinea's West Sepik province amids an audacious attempt by a leading MP to fill the vacancy in the regional seat.
Uncertainty continues to surround the position of Governor in Papua New Guinea's West Sepik province.
The position has been vacant since 2013 when the incumbent Amkat Mai's 2012 election victory was declared null and void by the national court, upholding joint petitions by former Governors Simon Solo and John Tekwie.
However while the court case is still dragging on, an audacious but unsuccessful attempt was recently made to fill the vacancy.
Johnny Blades reports:
Protracted election disputes are not unusual in PNG, but the people of West Sepik are tiring of the lingering mess at the provincial administration. For one of PNG's most remote provinces, the suspension of governor has only exacerbated the difficult challenges of providing services to its mainly rural-based population. A ruling on the electoral dispute by the Supreme Court is due by April and is expected to trigger a by-election but John Tekwie says the process takes too long.
JOHN TEKWIE: There's a need to bring about a special court and a time frame needs to be put in in terms of these kinds of problems because the courts have dragged on for three years, it's just useless. Effectively, we don't have a Governor. Mind you the other issue right now is that we don't have a (provincial) administrator also because the administrator was suspended by the provincial government.
The provincial administrator was suspended for alleged incompetence by the acting Governor Paul Negai. According to Belden Namah, the outspoken local MP for Vanimo Green, Paul Negai has lost the plot and created an impasse in the Provincial Administration by suspending the administrator based on a personal grudge. Ousted as opposition leader in the national parliament late last year, Mr Namah recently returned to Vanimo, rallying local level government leaders to try and clear up the mess in the West Sepik Governorship. Simon Solo says Mr Namah tried to fill the vacant Governorship himself.
SIMON SOLO: That's what he's trying to force the LLG presidents in the province to lure their support for him to become the Governor. They went to the provincial assembly but he couldn't master the votes or the numbers, so they adjourned it until after the outcome of the Supreme Court decision.
For his part, Paul Negai says the provincial administation is functioning normally and that it is starting to make headway into linking remote districts like Telefominn and Aitape/Lumi with new roading and air infrastructure. He describes Belden Namah's move as disruptive.
PAUL NEGAI: So he was trying to come and grab the power. Unfortunately, we thought there is no crisis. There is no reason for him to rush. Let's wait for the court decision to proceed, and then whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court, then we can either elect a Governor or the people of West Sepik go to the polls to elect the new Governor.
Belden Namah has denied that he was forcing the provincial assembly to make him Governor but insists that West Sepik province needs a permanent regional leader, and has indicated he will stand for the position.
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