Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review

The National Executive Council (NEC) has approved a proposal to formally declare Papua New Guinea (PNG) a Christian country. Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape said in a statement that PNG was founded on two principles: cultural heritage and Christianity. Both are declared in the preambles to the PNG Constitution. Papua New Guinea has more than 20 church denominations, with the Catholic Church enjoying the biggest membership, followed by the Lutheran Church, United Church and Seventh-day Adventist Church. «Many who claim to be Christians integrate their faith with indigenous beliefs and practices […] The influence of the church has transformed many societies to the extent of replacing some cultural beliefs while some have merged culture with religion […] Christian churches are also providing 60% to 80% of social and welfare services in the country […] Therefore the churches’ networks are trusted by the people, » Mr. James Marape said. Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea also marked that the proposal to declare PNG as a Christian country in the Constitution was supported by an overwhelming number of citizens. «Other religions will be allowed to practice their faith in the country but to respect Christianity as the official state religion, » marked PNG Prime Minister. Mr. Marape also stated that the approval by the National Executive Council of the proposal to declare PNG a Christian country would now secure the long-term peace and safety of the country. [1-2]

At the same time, People’s National Congress (PNC) Party Leader and former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O’Neill has said it is a sad day for PNG when a politician tries to manipulate the Christian faith for their political gain. According to Mr. O’Neil, James Marape trying to use religion to distract media from exposing the secret new debt he was trying to obtain: «[Mr] Marape is dealing with crisis after crisis as the economy drains empty, mines remain shut and resource projects stalled, as his self-imposed deadline to resolve these issues is only two weeks away […] On top of that, crime is out of control and mass prison breakouts loom, with the legitimacy of his own appointment scheduled to be heard today in the Supreme Court […] He is now trying to distract the media from his latest attempt to obtain K4 billion (US$1,15 billion) in additional debt to meet budget shortfalls […] This includes a new K1 billion (US$290 million) loan Mr. Marape is asking from Japan, when the foreign minister visits tomorrow, and the attempt by Mr. Marape to change the Bank of Papua New Guinea Act so that he can raid K3 billion (US$860 million) from national reserve funds, » PNG former PM Peter O’ Neil said. [3]

The Leadership Tribunal looking into allegations of misconduct in office against Aitape-Lumi (East Sepik Province) Member of Parliament and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Patrick Pruaitch, announced it needed more time to consider his submissions. Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Panuel Mogish, said this after the matter returned last Friday when submissions were made by Pruaitch, stating that the delay in the investigations against him stemmed from 2003 and could result in an unfair ruling. Opposition Leader Belden Namah and Members of the National Alliance Party, which Patrick Pruaitch is parliamentary leader of, were present at the hearing. [4]

However, Opposition Leader Belden Namah has called on the Government and the Prime Minister to pay outstanding allowances they owed to soldiers before they implement another call-out, referring to the current call-out for soldiers in COVID-19 duties. According to Mr. Namah, the call-out is unnecessary because COVID-19 is a health issue and not a law and order problem. « You need to pay their outstanding allowances for their active duties in the Highlands Region, the National General Elections, regular border patrols and the APEC Summit in 2018, » he said. [5]

Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro Province, which is located in the Northeastern part of PNG, has welcomed a joint investigations team, led by Office of Immigrations and Citizenship Authority. The team, comprising Police National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate and Immigration officers, would visit several logging sites in the province to carry out spot checks to ascertain if compliance measures were met by logging operators. These may include asset registration, visa compliance and logging permits and other compliance measures. Mr. Juffa welcomed team leader, John Bria, and assured him of the support of the provincial government in the course of their investigations. Oro Province Governor also assured the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Authority Wesley Nukundj that the Oro government was ready to support the investigation and any related efforts in the province. Mr. Juffa, who fought against illegal logging activities in his province, said he was relieved that a team has finally arrived. «While we welcome genuine business, and business people to contribute to the development of our country, all foreigners remain our guests, and as such must conform to our laws, and respect our constitutional laws and our people, » said Mr. Gary Juffa. [6] [1]
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