PNG GOVERNMENT GAGS PARLIAMENT ON ‘MOTIGATE’

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 3) – The Papua New Guinea Government yesterday gagged the Parliamentary Opposition from asking questions relating to two controversial issues – the "Motigate" affair and [the mobile phone company war].

[PIR editor’s note: Julian Moti, an Australian citizen currently Attorney General in the Solomon Islands, has eluded attempts by the Australian government to seek his extradition to face charges in the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in Vanuatu. Moti, who fled to Port Moresby late last year, was later secreted back to the Solomon Islands in a PNG military aircraft. He has since been under the protection of his friend and staunch defender, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.]

On the first day of the sitting yesterday, Parliament Speaker Jeffery Nape walked in an hour after the ringing of the bells and stopped Parliament from raising any questions or issues concerning the Moti affair.

Mr. Nape said, "I understand that the matter is before the court or the Defence Council, therefore I wish to inform Parliament that we should not discuss it. Any questions relating to the Moti case will not be entertained until the report is tabled before Parliament."

The Opposition decried this and termed it dictatorial.

At a news conference attended by all Opposition members, they said the gagging of debate on important issues concerning the nation was a disgrace.

Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta said the Speaker misled the Parliament. He told reporters that his office checked with the Supreme Court only on Monday and there was nothing to say that the Moti issues was before the courts. He said the Opposition had some questions regarding the issue and the report was explicit where it said laws were broken and responsible people should be prosecuted.

Mekere, supported by his deputy Bart Philemon and former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, said the recommendations of the report is clear and the alleged threats by the PNG Defence Force to arrest the Prime Minister and NGOs’ outcry were symptoms of the leaders not doing the right thing.

In saying this, the Opposition called for the Prime Minister to step aside immediately.

"There is a growing chorus of dissatisfaction everywhere. We are doing injustice to the people," Mekere told reporters.

Julius called on respective government bodies like the Ombudsman, police and public prosecutor to act independently and act on the recommendations of the Moti report.

Mendi MP Francis Awesa said there seem to be two laws, one for the small people and the other for the leaders, supported by Mekere who said a small person gets belted up for stealing a packet of biscuit and a leader gets free after all these allegations.

Meanwhile, attempts to ask the Communication Minister Patrick Tammur on the alleged submission to the Cabinet was also gagged with the front bench of the Government interjecting with points of order and calling on the speaker to rule it out of order which the Speaker eventually did.

Parliament adjourned to this morning at 10.

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