Mar 24, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Juffa stands his ground

Vocal governor an example to all

THE Pacific need more legislators like Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro Province in Northern Papua New Guinea. He is a one-man army fighting to rid his country of the scourge of corruption which has deep roots and threatens to destroy the country from within. Juffa’s latest action has been to expose the construction of a provincial drug storage facility in his province at the cost of around $AUD217,000. This facility – basically a warehouse – has not been completed because the contractor was a local nurse with no knowledge of building or carpentry.

The situation has been compounded by the fact that the nurse was paid for five years while not doing any work for the Health Ministry. PNG’s central government paid upfront for the drug storage facility which is meant to house medicines and equipment for distribution to small, remote centres.

These centres are pivotal points for the health and wellbeing of a community which mainly lives in rural areas from which it is expensive to travel. A year after Juffa raised the matter with Health Minister Michael Malabag there has been no investigation into how the contract was awarded.

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Disciplined services must be held to account

THE appalling behaviour by members of Papua New Guinea’s security forces this month must be condemned by every member of the community. When soldiers and police officers run amok, indiscriminately firing weapons, how can members of the public feel safe? It is unacceptable in any democracy that members of the disciplined services should take matters – or indeed the law – into their own hands. Governments and the people rely on police officers and armed troops to ensure national safety and security. In this latest incident members of the security forces and their wives have been injured by the irresponsible actions of a few selfish individuals.

There is little wonder that the law and order sector in Papua New Guinea is so weak when troops can leave their barracks fully armed on a vengeful spree of an area populated by civilians. How were these men able to draw arms from what is presumably a secure military facility? Who gave permission for the arms to be taken out of the barracks and onto the street when there was no threat to the population? The incident at Boroko on January 1 points to glaring systemic weaknesses which exist in at least one Papua New Guinea Defence Force facility. 

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O’Neill survives vote

PNG PRESSURE Political turmoil, student unrest and strikes cripple economy.

PRIME MINISTER Peter O’Neill has convincingly defeated the vote of no confidence in him to remain in office despite uncertainties created by nationwide protests and strikes by pilots, transport workers, and doctors. The opposition moved a motion of no-confidence in his leadership but only managed to secure 21 votes – well short of the 56 required.

Parliamentarians debated for around 90 minutes in a special court-ordered sitting, broadcast throughout PNG. After more than two years of political crisis over a long-running corruption investigation culminated in police shooting at students at a protest last month, the parliament sat on June 22 to determine the future of Peter O’Neill.

The opposition leader, Don Polye, had been nominated as an alternative leader but both he and O’Neill were prevented from speaking after the parliamentary debate was shut down. The Supreme Court had ordered the parliament to be recalled to vote on the opposition’s motion, and huge crowds of Papua New Guineans queued on that Friday morning to attend. Police had been placed on high alert.

This was the opposition’s fourth attempt to hold a vote of no-confidence in Mr O’Neill but in the end it couldn’t convince enough governments MPs to switch sides. The Prime Minister has been under pressure since early 2014 when a warrant was issued for his arrest.

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O’Neill survives for now

Financial woes, legal wrangles, public protests mount against PNG leader

IT has been a turbulent month in Papua New Guinea as students from four universities boycotted class and demanded for the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, to step down over corruption allegations and handling of the economy. Chief among the two key concerns has been the protection of the integrity of the Prime Minister’s office.

Students echoed general public concerns that the Prime Minister, who still has a pending warrant of arrest, related to alleged authorisation of payments to a PNG law firm, should step down and turn himself in for questioning.

The unrest began a month ago, after a series of high-profile arrests by the country’s Police Fraud and anti Corruption squad headed by veteran detective, Mathew Damaru. A senior member of the PNG judiciary, Justice Sir Bernard Sakora, was arrested followed by the Prime Minister’s lawyer, Tiffany Twivey.

A day later, Justice Minister, Ano Pala was arrested and brought in for questioning. Within days of the arrests, a chain of events occurred drawing public outrage particularly on social media. Police Commissioner, Gary Baki, suspended Mathew Damaru and members of the Fraud Squad. Then, members of the Police Special Services Division (SSD) barricaded the office and prevented the media from taking pictures at the Fraud Squad office.

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PNG key to trade deal

THE big question after PACER Plus talks in Brisbane this month will be simple – Do Pacific nations intend to carry on with this regional agreement without Papua New Guinea? On the first day of discussions, PNG was forthright in its comments on PACER Plus.

“PNG’s position is that it is not ready to sign PACER Plus, especially in its current form,” said Max Rai, outgoing PNG director general of trade and ambassador designate to the United Nations in a highly critical opening address. That position was not unexpected, according to island delegates who attended the closed-session talks.

“We understand PNG’s frustration but as for the rest of us we do need help from Australia and New Zealand in order to open up employment opportunities to our people,” one small island delegate said. “PNG does have a point but they have a much greater export base which is something the smaller nations don’t enjoy.” Ambassador Rai said his government would support other regional countries but PNG key to trade deal Will PACER Plus go ahead without largest economy?

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