CHAOS REIGNS IN RUDDERLESS PNG PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY

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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 23) – The Madang Provincial Assembly in Papua New Guinea turned chaotic on Friday as some council presidents slammed tables, pointed at the chair and used the "f"-word without restrain, much to the disgust of those in the public gallery.

Chairman and acting governor Bunag Kiup did very little to control the assembly from the start as he became the target of finger-pointing by arch-rival Fred Maliupa who was previously elected acting governor under controversial circumstances in a meeting chaired by convicted rapist and former governor James Yali.

A lawyer from the Department of Provincial Affairs made a special appearance in the assembly meeting to inform the members — mostly council presidents and nominated representatives — that meetings previously chaired by Yali were illegal.

Also in attendance were national Members of Parliament: Inter-Government Relations Minister Sir Peter Barter (Madang Regional Member of Parliament), Defense Minister and Member for Sumkar Mathew Gubag, Usino Bundi Member of Parliament Peter Yama and Madang Member of Parliament Alois Kingsley.

Soon after the opening prayer, Sir Peter gave notice to the chamber that the National Court had issued a restraining order preventing the election of a new governor.

As Sir Peter went on to explain the court order, Mr. Maliupa called a point of order and pointed his finger at the chair and complained that the house was not in order and that Mr. Kiup was not supposed to be chairing the meeting.

Mr. Kingsley called another point of order and said the process of democracy should not be hijacked through a court order. Then a newly installed leader of government business Nambara Gau called another point of order but he was shouted down by a group of members who had obviously sided with Mr. Maliupa.

They banged tables at shouted at him in raised tones. Mr. Maliupa said: "You f...ing sit down."

The members were generally abusive at each other and people at the public openly expressed disgust at the behavior of the council presidents.

When calm was restored, Sir Peter explained that a restraining order was instigated by Mr. Yama which was issued at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, about half and hour into the scheduled meeting time. The assembly meeting did not start until after 3 p.m.

Sir Peter said Madang desperately needed stability and a strong government with good leadership to bring back services and restore credibility that had been lacking in the last three years.

"We failed, we blame the public servants but we fail to blame ourselves ... the public servants here are confused," said Sir Peter.

Mr. Yama told the agitated members that they should all be held responsible for the chaos created in the chamber because in a previous meeting, they elected him as governor of Madang, later they voted in Mr. Maliupa as acting governor and now they were rallying behind Mr. Kingsley to be governor.

"You are the very people causing this confusion," he told them and explained that the Supreme Court reference was necessary to decide if he should be governor and until such time that was decided, there cannot be an election for a governor.

After that was clarified, the members voted with the acting governor to pass the province’s supply bill for funds to be released. The supply bill was the only matter on the agenda on Friday.

Under a supply bill, only a third of the total budget of PGK18 million [US$6.2 million] could be accessed while the provincial government puts together a proper budget, which would be handed down in March.

A budget passed by the assembly during one of these extra-ordinary meetings chaired by Mr. Yali had been ruled annulled.

January 24, 2006

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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