18 Apr 2003

PNG Bishop says Government reaction to criticism is disturbing

3:32 pm on 18 April 2003

The Catholic Archbishop in Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby says the PNG government is being overly sensitive to criticism following proposals to prosecute the country's critics.

PNG's Parliamentary Privileges Committee is deliberating over the fate of Australian businessman Rod Mitchell and PNG economic analyst Mike Manning for speaking out about the country's problems.

During the hearing. government MP Nick Kuman recommended laws to prosecute critics, prompting an outcry from journalists and diplomats in PNG.

In his Easter message, Archbishop Brian Barnes says parliament had over-reacted to Mr Manning's report titled PNG, On the Brink.

He says in reality the report contained nothing new.

Archbishop Barnes says the threat by the Privileges Committee chairman is an unhealthy sign and ignores the constitutional right to freedom.

The Archbishop says although there are some positive signs of the stabilising of the economy, the recent oversensitivity to criticism displayed by the government and MPs is very disturbing.

And Archbishop Barnes attacked Deputy Prime Minister Allan Marat for telling a national development forum that foreign investors who criticised the government should take their money elsewhere.

The Archbishop says the remarks are counterproductive to the forum's objective of consultation and dialogue between government, business and civil society.