PNG GOVERNMENT FINDS WAY TO KEEP POWER

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 27, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The Morauta Government appears to have secured power until the next general elections in 2002 by deciding to adjourn Parliament for six months effective next January 15, 2001.

The six months adjournment means there won't be any chance of parliamentary motions and votes of no confidence.

Its 18-month grace period expires next January and the period in which motions and votes of no confidence can be moved against it is between January and July next year.

After July 2001, no votes of no confidence can be moved against the Government because it is a constitutional requirement that no such votes be moved in a Prime Minister 12 months before the next general election.

In the interim, the Government will pack in many parliamentary sittings within the next six months to meet the constitutional requirement of 63 days for every 12 months.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta explained when announcing the decision yesterday that Parliament would be called for two weeks every month for the next six months to meet this requirement.

Sir Mekere said the Peoples Democratic Movement caucus had met and decided unanimously for the adjournment because it wanted to protect the progress it had made so far in steering the country out of certain doom, and for national stability.

"One wrong step and we lose the lot," he said.

"We lose it forever. No responsible Government could possibly risk that."

Meetings will be held with the other coalition partners to ensure that the government's legislative programs are completed before January 15, Sir Mekere said.

"PDM and our partners have a number of important bills to be passed and we want to ensure that the timetable is adhered to," he said.

"The Parliament will meet its constitutional requirements for the number of sitting days for the new parliamentary year in the next six months. It will fulfill the Government's legislative program.

"It will fulfill every legal obligation it has and it will fulfill its duty to the public."

Sir Mekere said PNG was entering a critical phase in its reconstruction and development.

"Neither I nor any member of the government will permit our achievements of the past 12 months to be undone," he said.

"The previous administration had adjourned the House illegally, and with no public consultation, simply to protect itself and its prime minister.

"It was protection of power by stealth and illegality. I am protecting something much more valuable for Papua New Guinea, not personal power.

"The nation has made significant gains in the past 12 months on the five objectives we set when we were elected on the floor of Parliament in July last year.

"Those objectives - stabilizing the kina, restoring stability to the budget, rebuilding the integrity of the institutions of State, removing obstacles to investment and growth and moving towards a political settlement of the Bougainville issue - must be fully met.

"Parliament will stay in the way of those who want a return to chaos for their own cheap personal and political benefit. Parliament will act in the interest of the nation so that the benefits of the past 12 months of stable management are not lost forever."

Sir Mekere said he and PDM had decided on making a public declaration of their intentions to allow all MPs and the general public to make up their own minds about the merits of the adjournment before it was debated.

He said his party did not want to use its numbers to adjourn Parliament without warning.

"I will not be a party to any illegal or secret maneuverings, as occurred when previous governments adjourned the House," he said.

"Governments right back to the eighties had, behind closed doors, manipulated Parliament to achieve long periods of adjournment to protect themselves and the power position of their prime ministers.

"I am doing this under the full scrutiny of the public and with sufficient time to allow Members of Parliament to make up their own minds independently.

"PDM will not allow chaos to reign again in this country. It is clear from the past 12 months that competent and accountable government must be allowed to continue."

Sir Mekere said the public and MPs were well aware of continual maneuvering of a small group of malcontents to try to halt the economic and social progress made by his Government. "The previous administration had adjourned the House illegally and with no public consultation simply to protect itself and its Prime Minister."

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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