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PNG’S SOMARE PUSHED TO TELL THE TRUTH ‘Secrecy, denials, gagging, deflecting’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 12, 2008) – The Opposition has called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his Government to tell the truth on issues affecting the nation in this session of Parliament.

Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta and Deputy Leader Bart Philemon made this joint call yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s session of Parliament.

"Secrecy, denials, gagging and deflecting of important questions and issues are the hallmark of Michael Somare’s regime," Mekere said.

"But the fact that journalists are pursuing these questions means that they smell something odious around the PM, his Cabinet ministers and officials."

The Opposition wants the Prime Minister to tell the nation "the truth" about the Moti Inquiry and the Ombudsman Commission investigation into his annual statements.

They also want the Prime Minister, Minister Paul Tiensten, Public Accounts Committee chairman Timothy Bonga and private lawyer Florian Gubon to tell everything they know about the Taiwan dollar diplomacy scandal that has resulted in the resignation of the Taiwanese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

"We also want some clear answers on the PGK10 million [US$3.8 million] per district Services Improvement Program funds," Mr. Philemon said.

"Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch, following my supplementary question last session, told Parliament on April Fool’s day, and I quote, ‘the funds are not earmarked for five years -- no-one has the right to tell Parliament or the Government for that matter to spread these funds over a five-year period. That is not the desire of this Government’’.

"The Opposition -- and many Government back-benchers -- want to know whether they can drawdown their total PGK10 million for their districts in 2008. We want to know how the Government is going to cater for inflationary measures and still allow K890 million [US$338.6 million] to be drawn down."

The Opposition also wants truthful answers in relation to the Prime Minister’s share in the Pacific Register of Ships Ltd and the circumstances that led to the engagement of PRS Ltd by the National Maritime Safety Authority.

"The Prime Minister has a lot to answer for. What ‘State interests’ are the reason for Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari’s termination? It seems that the issue of the on-off, on-off termination of the Finance Inquiry and subsequent damage-control played into prime ministerial hands for other interests," Mekere said.

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