Domestic Politics. Papua New Guinea press review

The two-week session of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea (PNG), which was held from the 2 to 16 June 2020, came to an end this week in PNG.

The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has passed the Public Health Emergency Act. 70 MP voted in favor, 14 – against. 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 (SoE) 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. Amongst those who voted against the Act were East Sepik Governor MP Allan Bird and most members from the Opposition side. The idea of a Public Health Emergency Act was initiated by Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape. [1-3]

Mr. Marape has assured the country that the management of the COVID-19 response will continue under the Public Health Emergency Act when the State of Emergency ends on Tuesday 16th of June. Prime Minister also stated that the National Operations Centre will be known as the National Control Centre and will continue to operate but this time with the support of Provincial Control Centres now established by law under the new Public Health Emergency Act. Mr. Marape also said that it is his view that Police Commissioner David Manning remains as the Controller under the new Act. The Prime Minister marked that the law is not meant to take away rights or freedom of the people. He said their rights and freedom remain however when the need arises upon advice and recommendation from Health and medical experts, certain restrictions will be put in place. «We heard the cry of our people. They did not want the SoE to be extended. What do we do? Are we to be reckless to allow our country to be exposed? We had to find a balance not to extend the SoE but have in place an environment that gives us the ability to protect our country, » Mr. Marape said. [4]

However, PNG Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says some State of Emergency orders will be lifted or relaxed although strict measures will remain to stop the COVID-19 from entering and spreading in the country: «We don’t want the Covid-19 virus entering the country via our borders and spreading to the urban areas, » he said. In turn, Police Commissioner Davin Manning Manning said that the ban on international flights, closure of the borders, and security operations would continue. [5]

Furthermore, Ialibu-Pangia MP (Southern Highlands Province), People’s National Congress Party (PNC) leader, former Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O’Neill says the new Public Health Emergency Act passed by PNG Parliament attempts to restrict and prohibit citizens’ constitutional rights. The PNC Party leader condemned the Government’s passing of the new law, adding that it was essentially nothing more than a re-wording of the current «Disastrous State of Emergency» Act, under a different name. In a statement, Mr. O’Neill said that the Act undermines the national constitution and gives ultimate power to the controller and also attempts to restrict and prohibit citizens’ constitutional rights that are provided for under the Constitution. « The current SOE and its extension has been all about power and control, » Mr. O’Neil noted. [6-7]

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape says that the Government will focus on four major projects – Wafi-Golpu, P’nyang, Papua LNG and Porgera – by September 2020. During the signing of allegiance agreements with four more political parties to strengthen the coalition he leads, Marape said the Pangu-led Government planned to deliver the four projects before the 16th of September 2020.
«Let me signal to all our investors in agriculture, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and tourism [that] politics displayed by numbers decide, and the number has already shifted into the Pangu-led Government […] The coalition of parties we have here will be campaigning to form government in 2022,» Mr. Marape said.

Pangu Pati signed a coalition partnership with the United Labour Party (ULP), United Resources Party (URP) and National Alliance Party (NA) which has given them 63 MPs. The Pangu signed up the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Our Development Party (ODP), Country Party (CP) and People’s Party (PP): «We will always have number above 80 and that’s majority we need to pass some of the laws.» Mr. Marape noted.
Social Democratic Party leader Powes Parkop said they were small parties but strong members of the coalition. In turn, Our Development Party official Sir Puka Temu thanked Mr. Marape for recognising smaller parties. Country Party leader Chris Haiveta said they had supported Mr. Marape as prime minister and would continue to 2022 and People’s Party leader Dr. William Tongap said they were happy to stand with Pangu. [8]

PNG Prime Minister says that the amendment to the Superannuation (General Provisions) Act 201, to authorize people to withdraw part of the retirement savings will be tabled in Parliament in August 2020. The amendment to the Superannuation (General Provisions) Act is needed to allow members of superfunds laid off when the State of Emergency was declared in March 2020 to withdraw part of their savings. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Davis Steven told The National earlier that Cabinet had agreed to have the amendment tabled in PNG Parliament. [9]

The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea will rise till 25th of August 2020

Last week, Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika announced the appointment of a Leadership Tribunal to inquire into allegations of misconduct in office against the leader of National Alliance Party, Aitape-Lumi MP and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Patrick Pruaitch. Mr. Pruaitch has welcomed the setting up of the Leadership Tribunal as an opportunity to clear his name. National Alliance Party leader has denied all allegations of misconduct, and would contest these allegations at the proposed hearing. It is yet to be clarified the nature of the allegations made against Mr. Pruaitch. Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape said he had not been officially informed of Pruaitch’s suspension. However, Speaker Job Pomat also ruled last week that Mr. Pruaitch could continue to attend Parliament as Member for Aitape-Lumi and as Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade. [10-11] [1] https://emtv.com.pg/2020-national-pandemic-bill-passed/
[2] https://kalangfm.com/news/pm-marape-says-the-covid19-national-operations-center-will-remain-748
[3] http://www.looppng.com/png-news/public-health-emergency-act-be-tabled-92779
[4] https://postcourier.com.pg/state-of-emergency-to-end-on-tuesday/
[5] https://www.thenational.com.pg/new-normal-to-begin/
[6] https://www.thenational.com.pg/law-disastrous-oneill/
[7] https://postcourier.com.pg/pnc-let-people-get-on-with-their-lives-reopen-economy/
[8] https://www.thenational.com.pg/government-focusing-on-4-major-projects-says-marape/
[9] https://www.thenational.com.pg/superannuation-bill-later-pm/
[10] https://postcourier.com.pg/pruaitch-welcomes-tribunal/
[11] https://www.thenational.com.pg/pruaitch-to-continue-duties/
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