PNG PRIME MINISTER MUST OWN UP TO MOTI ESCAPE

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Feb. 28) - Under the Papua New Guinea system of government, the Prime Minister has the authority under the National Constitution to appoint and sack ministers.

Once he decides on the appointments, he advises the Governor-General as head of state to make the appointments, or, as they put it rather nicely in bureaucratic language, "decommission" the ministers or minister. Only the Prime Minister can announce the appointment or sacking of a minister.

On Monday evening this process did not take place.

Defence Minister and Pangu Pati member, Mr. Martin Aini, was severely reprimanded by the Prime Minister in the presence of all his cabinet colleagues for telling the media he was pressured by the Prime Minister to sign an instrument disbanding the Defence board of inquiry into the Julian Moti controversy. Nothing was said -- so we are told -- about sacking Aini.

While Cabinet was still meeting, the Prime Minister’s daughter who is his media adviser, Ms. Betha Somare, emailed media organizations to advise them that Aini had been sacked.

That was not the impression Pangu Pati [party] leader and Treasurer Rabbie Namaliu got from the Cabinet meeting. And we are told Namaliu was the last to leave the cabinet room after the meeting. When the newspapers came out with the front page story announcing Aini had been sacked, Namatanai MP Mr. Byron Chan asked the Prime Minister about it in Parliament. It was then that the Prime Minister told all members of Parliament that he had sacked the Minister for Defence.

The prerogative of the Prime Minister to appoint and sack his ministers is not questioned. But the manner in which Aini’s removal was handled leaves a lot to be desired. It seems that the staff of the Prime Minister have taken on the responsibility of announcing the sacking of a minister of State, a responsibility that can only be performed by the Prime Minister alone. The people must wonder who is running the country, [appointed] personal staff of the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister himself. What advice is he getting about how to deal with ministers?

Pangu leader and Treasurer Namaliu was never consulted about the sacking of the only other Pangu minister. Yet, Namaliu has been steadfastly loyal to the Prime Minister and has been for many years. Aini is sacked from Cabinet, but the critical issues surrounding the Moti affair still remain unanswered and only the Prime Minister can answer them.

Only the Prime Minister can tell Papua New Guineans and the international community the truth about Moti’s escape from PNG.

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