Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review

The two-week session of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea (PNG), which began on 2 June 2020, continues.

Two additional weeks of State of Emergency (SoE), declared by Parliament last week (from June 2) will be over next Tuesday (June 16). That was announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Davis Steven. «The Government is conscious of the negative impact of the COVID-19 especially in the business and economic sector […] (but) it is also very conscious of the threat the virus has on the health and well-being of our people» – Mr. Steven said. Furthermore, Deputy State of Emergency controller and acting Health Secretary Dr. Paison Dakulala said the two-week extension from June 2 to June 16 was to allow time for the drafting, tabling in Parliament and (expected) passing of the Public Health Emergency Bill. [1]

The Public Health Emergency Act will only operate when there is a public health crisis declared formally by the Governor-General. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Davis Steven announced this to give confidence to the general public, business houses and other stakeholders that the government’s position remains that the current State of Emergency will not be extended after it lapses in about a week’s time. «The Bill seeks to provide a practical and effective legislative mechanism for the implementation all necessary measures to detect, prevent the entry of, control the spread of and eradicate a pandemic, outbreak or serious public health threat. Having lessons learned from the current COVID-19 pandemic this is critical for the country» – Mr. Steven said. The proposed bill provides a legislative framework for national response to a pandemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). the bill is prescribed for regions including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARB). The bill will also establish provincial control centers to be headed by the provincial administrators. The national center and provincial centers will be supported by necessary government and private sector bodies and relevant international bodies. [2]

The government of Papua New Guinea has given the notice to amend the Mineral Resources Development Company Act (MRDC) and the Public Curator Act.
Acting Clerk of Parliament Kala Aufa said the Minister for Petroleum and Energy Kerenga Kua gave notice to Parliament that he would present the Act that:
– Recognize the incorporation of the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) Ltd as an entity that together with its subsidiaries, holds on trust interest in petroleum, mining and unconventional hydrocarbons project for beneficiaries;
– Provides that the shares of MRDC Ltd are held on trust by the Prime Minister from time to time on behalf of the state;
– Provides that MRDC Ltd and its subsidiary are not State instruments that their assets are not deemed as not public assets;
– Repeal the Mineral Resources company Ltd (PTY Limited) privatization Act 1996.
Moreover, the Clerk said that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Attorney-General Davis Steven presented a notice that he would bring an Act to amend the Public Curators Act Charter 81(-a) that:
– Changes the name from Public Curator to Public Trustee;
– Establishes the office of the Public Trustee;
– Administers and distributes the deceased assets for and on behalf of the deceased.
– Provides for the functions, powers and duties of the Public Trustee. [3-4]

Former Prime Minister and the leader of People’s National Congress (PNC) Peter O’Neill was arraigned at the Waigani Commital Court in Port Moresby on charges of Abuse of Office and Official Corruption. His appearance today makes it the first time the Ialibu Pangia (Southern Highlands Province) MP came before Committal Courts on criminal charges since his arrest in May 2020 and subsequent K5000 bail release. The allegation in this matter date back to December 2013, wherein Mr. O’Neill is accused of unlawfully paying K50 million of public money to Israel for the installation of two diesel turbine generators. The Court declared the matter would be adjourned for one month to allow police to complete investigation. [5]

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape is expected to make a Cabinet reshuffle and National Alliance Party (NA) is hoping to get and additional two ministries. National Alliance Party last week welcomed the return of Kerema MP Richard Merdani to its ranks and boosting party numbers up to 12 in the current Pangu Pati-led coalition government. At the same time, their leader Patrick Pruaitch said that rotation of ministers was Prime Minister’s prerogative, but talks were ongoing between the political parties. Mr. Pruaitch, on behalf of the party, welcomed Mr. Mendani back into its folds and added the party was rebuilding to ensure stability in the current coalition under Prime Minister Hon. James Marape. [6]

MP from Mendi, Southern Highlands, Michael Nali, the only People’s National Congress (PNC) Party member left in James Marape’s Cabinet, says he has «uncompleted» business to attend to. Prime Minister James Marape said he wanted Mr. Nali to continue as Minister for Works and Implementation, saying the man would «get the work done». Mr. Nali’s other party colleagues, given Cabinet portfolios when Mr. Marape became PM in May last year under a coalition with the PNC and other parties, have since been replaced. They are now with PNC party leader Peter O’Neill in the Opposition after Mr. Marape wanted them out of the coalition. «In my view, I am doing a lot of good work in the department. So I will leave the party thing out first and focus on doing my job as an elected leader. I am working on a very important programme to connect PNG with roads» – said Mr. Nali. Prime Minister James Marape said he was not running Government just because of politics «but to get the work done». [7]

Ministers and leaders of parties gave their support for the passage of the proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) legislation in Parliament. National Planning Minister and the leader of United Labour Party (ULP) Sam Basil said on behalf of the party that they fully support the bill. Moreover, Oro Governor Gary Juffa also gave his support but said the independence of the organization must not be controlled and manipulated by any force. [8]

Commerce and Industry Minister William Duma has warned Parliament to be very careful in its selection of people who will manage The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) office if established. The Health Minister Jelta Wong says he’s pleased with the content of the bill and he thinks the first commissioner should be coming from a foreign country. [9-10] [1]
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