By Samisoni Pareti
Just a week after Papua New Guinea had a change in its prime minister, the country today saw a reshuffle of cabinet that ushers in Davis Steven as deputy to Prime Minister James Marabe.
Steven will also hold the attorney general and minister of justice portfolio.
Former deputy prime minister Charles Abel in Peter O’Neill’s cabinet still remains in the Marabe Government as finance minister. Another strong supporter of O’Neill Sam Basil has been retained as minister of treasury.
Key surprises in the 32-cabinet sworn into office today by PNG Governor General Bob Dadae are outspoken opposition MP and a public critic of former prime minister O’Neill, Bryan Kramer. He is the new minister of police.
Announcement of his name at the swearing in ceremony at Government House brought the loudest cheer from onlookers. In congratulating him, Prime Minister Marape assured Kramer of his confidence in restoring the credibility of the country’s police force.
“The entire police structure is dysfunctional at the moment, if I may say so, its very weak in morale. I give you total freedom to leave your mark for the country, make each police man and police woman proud of their work, to be able to serve their country with pride and dignity, in the restoration of the rule of law,” said PM Marape.
He also assured the country that his minister nor his government is not out to punish anyone in particular. He did confirm that his government will crack down against corruption but for this to happen, his government will need hard, credible evidence, not just “talk.”
Speaking to reporters after taking his oath of office, Kramer said his priority would be to make every woman and man feel safe in Papua New Guinea. Going after corrupt leaders, which was his crusade when he was in the opposition would be “secondary” now.
Another opposition member that got appointed into cabinet was Kerenda Kua, who was until recently, the shadow attorney general and minister for justice. He now holds the powerful ministry of petroleum.
“Kua and I share the same vision and being a lawyer by profession, he fits into this role,” said Prime Minister Marape. “He is one of those who didn’t vote for me in parliament last week but this is not about myself or the need to reciprocate a favour. This is about picking the best man for the job.”
The new PNG leader also had some words for foreign investors. He has noted he said the call by an investor that he as the new Prime Minister needed to be more investor friendly. “I can assure our investors that we are not here to kick them out, but we are just tired of being rent collectors. Yes we will be friendly to investors but we will be more friendlier to our own people of Papua New Guinea.”
The operations of some of the public owned companies were also on the prime minister’s radar during the swearing in ceremony of his cabinet ministers today.
On Air Niugini, Marape told his new minister for transport and infrastructure William Samb to do a diagnostic on the airline, so that it makes a return on government’s investment.
Renbo Paita is probably the youngest member of the Marape cabinet. At 32, he is the new minister for energy and communications. For him, the prime minister wants lower tariff from both PNG Telekom and PNG Power.
“I don’t know how you going to bring prices down but I want you to. Telekom you also are put on notice that if Digicel has got PNG covered 100%, you also need to cover PNG 100%.”
Another seasoned politician Sir Puka Temo, former health minister in O’Neill’s Government is now the new minister for Bougainville Affairs. “The matter of Bougainville is in our face, it is one of the most important agenda of my government, and I need a stable and experienced hand to be in charge of it.”
Another O’Neill minister that is staying on but with a portfolio change is Justin Tkatchenko who will now look after housing and urban development. He was minister for lands and APEC under O’Neill.
An Indian born businessman now a PNG national is the new minister responsible for state enterprises. Sasindran Muthuvel is Governor of the West New Britain Province.
Prime Minister Marape said he will announce the names of his vice ministers next week.
The full list of the cabinet of Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea: