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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 19, 1999 - Post-Courier)---Prime Minister Bill Skate has told the Catholic bishops to produce evidence to substantiate claims of corruption in his government.

He vowed to take swift action against anyone involved in corrupt deals if the bishops could substantiate their claims with "facts and figures.''

But later in his address to the bishops' conference, the Prime Minister highlighted his government's priorities for the coming months which include one which states: "We need to improve our code of ethics and conduct at all levels of government, the private sector and civil society and commit ourselves to principles of hard work and honesty free of corrupt activity.''

Mr. Skate flew to Tokua on Friday with four of his ministers -- Ian Ling-Stuckey (Commerce and Industry), Ludger Mond (Health), Jacob Wama (Finance and Internal Revenue) and Andrew Kumbakor (Home Affairs) -- where they had a two-hour meeting with the bishops who have been attending the annual bishops' conference.

The meeting took place in a 100-year-old building at Vunapope, which is the headquarters of the Catholic Church in East New Britain. The atmosphere was one of peace, but tense, with the bishops standing firm in their view that PNG faces serious difficulties with its national leadership and calling for serious efforts to correct major problems.

They expressed alarm at the prolonged suspension of Parliament and the repeated changes in department heads and heads of other government institutions -- and appointing "friends and political supporters'' to those positions instead.

Mr. Skate listened to the bishops, as one after another they detailed their concerns about subjects ranging from political leadership to health, education, law and order and the economy.

Then he challenged the bishops to provide facts and figures to substantiate claims that there is corruption in government.

Mr. Skate said he would reveal information about corrupt deals of other political leaders he now has in his possession so that the people know the real truth.

Mr. Skate acknowledged that there are problems in the government system but added that many of these were accumulated over the last 23 years of independence.

He said he did not attend the meeting to defend himself or his government but to tell the bishops about the problems PNG is facing and to seek solutions.

The Prime Minister said the meeting with the Catholic bishops was one of several he intends to have with leaders of churches in PNG to personally brief them about what the government is doing.

Mr. Skate told the bishops the government had done everything possible to maintain the quality and standard of health and education services in PNG.

In the 1999 Budget, he said the government had allocated K 100 million for tertiary education, K 104 million for secondary education and K 200 million for primary education. (NOTE: US$ 1 = K 2.35849 on April 19, 1999)

"I want every child in Papua New Guinea to have access to primary education, but others have different priorities,'' he said.

On the controversial value added tax (VAT), the Prime Minister told the bishops: "I am assuring you that there will be no increases for the basic food items as a result of VAT.''

The Health Minister, Mr. Mond, said after the meeting, funds for health services in the provinces have already been sent to provincial treasuries. It is the responsibility of the provinces to ensure the funds are spent on health and not diverted to other activities.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).


By Philip Keposn

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (April 19, 1999 - The National)---Papua New Guinea is sinking deeper into the mire with allegations of rampant corruption and mismanagement at all levels of Government as a result of a serious leadership crisis, according to a joint statement by the Catholic Bishops.

The statement, which was read to Prime Minister Bill Skate last Friday during a special meeting with the bishops at Vunapope Catholic Mission station in East New Britain, said that the bishops were concerned with the manner in which the leaders were running the country.

"We, the bishops of the 18 Catholic dioceses of Papua New Guinea, are increasingly alarmed at the rapidly deteriorating state of this nation, the path down which the leaders of this country are taking us," the statement said.

"The election awareness and prayer campaign of 1997 has come to nothing and it is politics as usual.

"We, the Catholic bishops, see the country sinking ever deeper into the mire with believable allegations of rampant corruption and mismanagement at all levels of Government . . . What has happened to the promise of transparency and the war on corruption?"

Mendi Bishop Steve Reichart, who read the statement, said the attraction of personal power and wealth had proved too much for many leaders and the common good had largely been forgotten in Waigani and in many electorates.

He said the electronic and print media reminded the people almost daily of the dangerous law and order situation in PNG.

"They advise us of the sad state of health and education services throughout the country. We also experience these things personally at the grassroots level. The media also report the disintegration of our economy," he said.

Bishop Reichart said the economy of Papua New Guinea was in the state of collapse, adding: "We have seen the value of the kina quickly sinking to new depths while inflation rises. Investors have lost confidence and threaten to flee the country."

He said even while the country was on the verge of collapse, Parliament continued to fund the much criticized and failed policy of the Rural Action Program (RAP), which had produced no benefits for the people.

"We believe this so called slush fund is the root of much corruption throughout the country," said Bishop Reichart.

"Politicians use the fund to buy votes in an attempt to shore up support for the next election. It is often alleged that in some cases they even enrich themselves through direct misappropriation. We assert that the slush fund must be eliminated or the Government will never achieve credibility in financial matters," he said.

Bishop Reichart said while the country reels under a series of serious difficulties, Parliament had gone to sleep by adjourning it for six months.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).


RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (April 19, 1999 - The National/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Archbishop Brian Barnes of Port Moresby has repeated his call for a change in the leadership and political system in Papua New Guinea, the National reports.

Archbishop Barnes, who had criticized the Government and called for a change of leadership during his Easter message two weeks ago, told Prime Minister Bill Skate during a special conference with 18 Catholic bishops on Friday at Vunapope that the country needed quality leaders who would inspire and lead by example.

"At this time in PNG, the people know what they need. They know what they are looking for, and that is good leadership," he said.

"We need leaders who are honest, who have a vision for PNG, who will not buy support, who will not buy loyalty -- leaders who wish to serve the people of PNG, leaders whose own lives are an example to others, leaders who can inspire others to follow, leaders who can show the way for PNG out of our current problems."

Archbishop Barnes said the results of the people's prayers for guidance in 1997 at the time of the elections had been less than satisfactory, adding that the people of this nation must continue to pray and search for good leadership.

He also stressed that the present electoral system was defective, adding that the first-past-the post system made it possible for individuals to win an election with only a small percentage of the votes.

"It attracts those who recognize the opportunity for self-enrichment, with the need to repay only a limited number of supporters," he said.

He said our electoral system must be broadened to a preferential system, requiring candidates to take into account all potential voters of the electorate.

"Repaying voters would not be possible in terms of money for votes, but rather in terms of benefits for the whole electorate, thereby demanding clear policies regarding priorities, both national and local," he said.

Title -- 2059 POLITICS: Archbishop renews call for change in PNG Date -- 19 April 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- The National (PNG), 19/4/99 Copyright -- The National Status – Unabridged

This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:

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