Lobbying intesifies in PNG ahead of no confidence vote
While Papua New Guinea's government and opposition groupings have gone into respective camps as lobbying hits full throttle ahead of a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister Peter O'Neill, public pressure is mounting for him to stand aside.
Papua New Guinea's government and opposition groupings have gone into camps as lobbying hits full throttle ahead of a motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.
A number of government MPs defected to the opposition, adding to the chorus of public discontent with Mr O'Neill's handling of the economy and his refusal to stand aside to face fraud allegations.
But while the government coalition looks strong for now, public pressure to remove Mr O'Neill is mounting.
Johnny Blades reports:
It was high drama as the parliament was reconvened upon Supreme Court orders last Friday for the tabling of the motion of no-confidence. The Speaker Theo Zurenuoc however expressed concern that the court ruling had breached the principle of separation of powers between PNG's democratic arms. But just when he appeared to be entertaining a government move to defer the motion of no-confidence, the opposition MP Kerenga Kua issued a warning.
KERENGA KUA: The purpose of this parliament is not to call for the entertainment of any other motion other than to introduce the motion for a vote of no-confidence and to adjourn it. So having made the ruling on already, you cannot call for another motion. To do so will be in contempt of court, Mr Speaker. (Jeers from government MPs)
THEO ZURENUOC: Point taken, point taken.
The Speaker then issued a warning of his own, taking into account the turmoil of recent weeks including violent unrest at PNG's universities and deepening public sentiment around issues related to the prime minister.
THEO ZURENUOC: I feel it is time we have to be sensitive of what is happening around us, about what is happening in Papua New Guinea as well. And whilst I would really want to take this matter to court right now and take this matter for judicial review, I would rather exercise caution and I would say we will do it after we've dealt with the matter that is before us.
With this Friday's vote of no-confidence pending, PNG politics has been thrust back into the horse-trading phase, Dozens of MPs in the coalition government are camped in Alotau. One of them,the Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko said over 70 of PNG's 111 MPs are in the camp and backing Mr O'Neill to stay in the job until next year's election. He says Mr O'Neill's system of dispersal of districts funds has transformed PNG in the past few years.
JUSTIN TKATCHENKO: Unbelievable results for infrastructure and development and education and health in our districts that we've never had before. And with that, we've seen remarkable changes in all our districts from the remotest region to the ones we have in Port Moresby.
However, around a dozen MPs have already defected from the government, including the Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Ben Micah and his People's Progress Party, reportedly unhappy with the way Mr O'Neill handled the recent student protests. Those protests have now melted into a wider action by key professional groups including doctors, pilots, maritime workers and energy workers, all demanding Mr O'Neill stand down.
A representative of the concerned professionals group, the constitutional lawyer, Moses Murray, says their protest is peaceful and is not disrupting essential services.
MOSES MURRAY: I would not prefer the work strike. They have exercised their conscience not to attend work and they're taking time out with their families, but in this group its not only the pilots. It's the doctors it's the nurses it's everybody.
The impact of the airline workers withdrawal of services has been particularly disruptive in the last five days. However government MPs were able to organise their own flights to Alotau where intense lobbying is underway to shore up the coalition.
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