Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review

Electoral Commissioner of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Patilias Gamato has been replaced by Cabinet which has appointed acting Deputy Commissioner, Election Administration Simon Sinai to the top post. Commissioner Gamato was served his replacement notice by the National Executive Council (NEC) with a series of allegations, one of which was the signing of contracts as adviser, as ICT consultant and as media consultant. A Gazettal Notice [obtained] had already been signed by the PNG Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae. This is the first time in PNG’s history a serving Electoral Commissioner had been suspended during his term in office. [1-2]

According to Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape, Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has been asked to step aside while allegations against him are investigated: « With the police arrest, we have asked the electoral commissioner to step aside for six months […] Once he is cleared, he will return, » Mr. Marape said. PNG Prime Minister also marked that Cabinet and the Electoral Commission appointments committee had sought advice from the State Solicitor before making the decision because of the implications of certain sections of the constitution regarding Gamato’s position. The Constitution states that a Constitutional office holder (including the Electoral Commissioner as defined under Section 221(e) «may not be suspended, dismissed or removed from office during his term in office except in accordance with a Constitutional Law.» Section 126(6) protects the Electoral Commission from outside or hidden influence, stating that «the Electoral Commission is not subject to direction and control by any person or authority. » The only circumstances which warrant the replacement of an electoral commissioner is when he or she dies, resigns, becomes terminally ill and cannot perform the duties of the Commissioner, or found guilty by a competent court and imprisoned. [3]

However, continues the session of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea, which began on the 25th of August 2020.
PNG Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey says that ordinary citizens who would like to access funds from the economic stimulus package recently announced by the Government can do so by approaching their provincial governments and District Development Authorities (DDA). It is known that through the K508 million (US$146 million) economic stimulus package, K2 million (US$580 thousand) was given to the districts and K1.5 million (US$430 thousand) to provincial governments. From the K2 million, K500,000 (US$140 thousand) has been set aside for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programme, K1 million (US$290 thousand) for agriculture and another K500,000 is for MSMEs (micro-, small and medium enterprises). Because each district and provincial government has their own specific programmes, this particular package was designed to be broad, and flexible,so that it could fit into each requirement of each district and provincial government, as Mr. Ian Ling-Stuckey said. [4]

However, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape stated that the compounded effect of the country’s debt from borrowing over the last seven to eight years is about K37 billion (US$10,67 billion). Mr. Marape Marape made the comments after a series of questions put to him by Yangoru-Saussia (East Sepik Province) MP Richard Maru, who asked whether the Government was focused on borrowing or building the country. Mr.Marape marked that the previous People National Congress party-led government borrowed an average of K2.5 billion (US$719 million) a year. In turn, Ialibu-Pangia (Southern Highlands Province) MP and former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, who is also the leader of PNC, disputed the figures given by Mr. Marape. Mr. O’Neill said that, according to the Central Bank report that summarised outstanding public debt, showed that the total borrowed at the end of June 2019 was K27 billion (US$7,7 billion) – total debt for the last 45 years. [5]

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