Marape government threatened as MPs and Ministers move to Opposition benches

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A deliberate and surprise move by MPs and Ministers to the Opposition last Friday may foreshadow the end of the 18-month-old Marape Government in Papua New Guinea.

Opposition benches before and after the defections on Friday 13 November. Images: EMTV

There were extraordinary scenes in Parliament last Friday as MPs and reportedly up to 12 Ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil, moved to the Opposition benches.

The move, which was followed by a successful vote to adjourn Parliament until 1 December, places the government led by Prime Minister James Marape in jeopardy, with a vote-of-no-confidence permitted after 30 November under PNG law.

Any motion for a vote-of-no-confidence must propose an alternative Prime Minister.

‘We have taken PNG back, but we have taken it backwards’

Speaking to media at the Crown Hotel, Port Moresby, later in the day, Opposition Leader Belden Namah claimed that the Opposition now had the support of 61 of the country’s 111 MPs and would form a new government. He called on Prime Minister Marape to resign.

Namah and other party leaders assembled at the hotel, including former Prime Ministers Peter O’Neill and Sir Julius Chan, highlighted the economic downturn, the prolonged closure of the Porgera gold mine and delays over new gas projects as key reasons for their intervention.

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‘We have taken PNG back, but we have taken it backwards,’ claimed Sam Basil. The Opposition has now set up camp in Vanimo.

Fighting on

The Prime Minister had earlier stated his intention to fight on at his own media conference.

‘I am not finished in politics yet, now or into the future,’ he later posted to social media. He also moved to reassure people the business of government would continue in spite of the political situation.

‘Government programmes will function as usual. This includes rolling out 2020 budgeted items to outstanding State contractors, liabilities, and ensuring districts and provincial programmes are funded, passing the balance of K100 million for SME fundings to National Development Bank, paying out public service salaries and etc.

‘We have raised enough funds as forecasted in 2020 Budget to retire the 2020 money plan. I am not going to wait around for Parliament to tell me what to do. The executive government will continue to work.’

Reforms in doubt

The adjournment of the current session of Parliament means the country’s 2021 National Budget, which was expected to be delivered by Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey on 17 November, is also postponed.

Prime Minister James Marape addressing the media after the adjournment of Parliament. Credit: NBC

It also means some notable business and investment-related reforms flagged by the Marape government are now clouded in uncertainty until the political landscape becomes clearer. These include a long-awaited revision of the Investment Promotion Authority Act.

It is also now unclear if the proposed Organic Law on Papua New Guinea’s Ownership and Development of Hydrocarbons and Minerals and the Commercialisation of State Businesses 2020, flagged by Kerenga Kua, Minister for Petroleum and Energy, will go ahead. Notice had already been given for the Organic Law, which requires extra sittings, longer time periods and high majorities in order to be passed.

However, several Opposition speakers on Friday spoke out against the proposed new organic law, placing it in doubt if a new government is formed in December.

Papua LNG

While some legislation is now in question, the current parliamentary session has already seen the passing of two notable tranches of legislation: an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Act, which was passed last Thursday with bipartisan support, and enabling legislation for the Total-led Papua LNG gas project.

The latter legislation is seen as an essential precursor to the commencement of the US$10 billion project, set to be PNG’s second major gas project.

This week, Prime Minister Marape said a ‘high level delegation of Total officials will be visiting the country to work with the Government and all its partners’ in coming weeks to progress the project.

It is not yet clear how the changed political situation may influence this visit. This week’s planned visit to PNG of Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has been cancelled. The Australian newspaper reports that Morrison was due to announce AUD$142 million (KK362 million) in budgetary support for PNG and the rollover of an existing AUD$442 million (K1.12 billion) loan during his visit.

Porgera negotiations

The political upheaval also raises questions about the fate of negotiations to reopen the Porgera gold mine.

By coincidence, the CEO of Barrick Gold, Mark Bristow, was in PNG last week. In a statement, the Porgera Joint Venture, of which Barrick is lead partner, said the visit has been organised ‘in good faith under a joint agreement between Prime Minister Marape and Mr Bristow which committed to negotiations relating to the restart of the Porgera mine.’

During his current visit, Bristow met with Prime Minister Marape, government ministers, Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas, the State Negotiating Team and Porgera landowners.

The mine, which closed in April, remains in care and maintenance mode while negotiations over its reopening continue.

Comments

  1. No loyalty in PNG politics..No wonder we cant move forward.

  2. … Please forget about playing politics, we have 15 more months before the next general election in 2022. I urge you all MPs from the Government and Opposition to stop, think, analyse the situation you all are in currently, weigh out the advantage and disadvantages of such decision you made for the good of your voters and the country and come back to the Parliament . That is where you will make important decision on the running of our Government and Country …

  3. LESLIE AKO KARI says

    Prime Minister had a double tongue and worst for persons who hide at the back of a legalistic denomination (SDA) by name only.
    Feel sorry for genuine Ministers who had the country at heart such as Kerenga Kua and Pila Niningi and Michael Nali

    Hope the New Government carry on the work they started especially regarding Organic Law on Papua New Guinea’s Ownership and Development of Hydrocarbons and Minerals and the Commercialisation of State Businesses 2020,
    Why dont they move across.

  4. NEHEMIAH BAUATY says

    2022 is just at the door so let marape to complete the term

  5. D.S mahn says

    We Papua New Guineans always say, PNG is a Christian country, every politicians use Lotu or name Christian during campaign times, but, yet corruption is the sound basis of the MPs that we elect. Whom will we trust and how can we trust you? Please don’t mention Lotu in the Parliament House, but talk about corruption, because corruption is the reason the country is moving backwards.

    • Mersi Em says

      Please we need changes and development for the PNGens. Enough of corruption and bring back PNG where it supposed to be.,..worried citizen

  6. Fred Poai says

    PmJM’s pre calculated vision to Take Back PNG has failed miserably..it would NEVER be a Richest Black Nation…instead the country has chased Investors and Donor Agencies away.

    • Frazer Murray says

      One can interpret PMJM’s slogan “Take Back PNG” differently but as I understood it is not meant to chase investors but to give equal benefits from their natural resources. One would note that since independence PNG is still living under the poverty line compared to many countries in the world. Not to mention the so called landowners and resource owners who are still living in bush material roofs and low standard of living and fighting for a fair share from their resources.

      • LESLIE AKO KARI says

        you have hit the nail on the head. No one has ever thought of that a all elected leaders have only thought of themselves
        thankyou

    • Time is against us folks for the falling economic progress to whatsoever slogan or 100 days recovery one could come up with. Again one cannot break the law to correct law breakers. PNG politics is funny but can one see where is this pressure coming from? Figure out the root and dig it out from the core..we might face something unexpected in few days ahead. The environment we created for attracting our prey is in fact getting us victims of it. Only in png

  7. amexonkaiku says

    We Papua New Guineans are always changing LEADERS like someone having bath and changing clothes ev6 day without real6 the changes occurring during their time.

  8. Simon PUP says

    I really want to see daily happenings of papua New Guinea.

  9. Robert Godfrey Illumpui says

    We are happy to hear and read that change is about to come.The country is going backward,with misbehaviour on public streets,stealing abusing women,swearing dtinking and many more…..Where is Marape and his ministers and workers to control law and order. Very soon we will see killing on public streets,Enough is enough. Give png back to the coastal leaders to take charge now and make necessary changes to move foward.The current mentality is wrong……..

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