No-Confidence Grace Period Extension Passes In PNG

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‘Sabotage’ alleged when parliament experiences power outage

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 6, 2013) – The O’Neill-Dion government used its numerical strength to gag debate and swiftly move to pass by a record 90-14 votes the constitutional amendment needed to extend the vote of no-confidence grace period from 18 to 30 months in Papua New Guinea’s Parliament yesterday afternoon.

The vote was taken amid an alleged attempt to sabotage power and force Parliament to adjourn to today to avoid the vote.

All parliament officers were locked out for 45 minutes as Speaker Theo Zurenuoc personally called PNG Power chief executive officer to find out what was happening.

The power was restored just after 2 o’clock for the parliament to sit and pass the only business of the day.

Mr. Zurenuoc when contacted last night said he had ordered an investigation into the alleged power sabotage.

He said he had received a call from a senior Opposition MP that there are attempts to remove him as Speaker and that he adjourned parliament when there was no quorum in the first instance, but he refused to entertain the leaders request because he believed there was quorum.

Mr. Zurenouc said he would not mention names or make allegations as these could be a coincidence.

"It is still premature to say it is a planned thing," he said.

When Parliament started at 2.20 pm, leader of Government Business James Marape suspended Standing Orders for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to move his motion for the second opportunity for debate and third reading.

Speaker Theo Zurenuoc allowed only Rabaul MP Dr. Allan Marat for debate and the government then moved to put the question and for the vote to be taken.

The government needed only 74 votes but had an overwhelming support, including a single vote from the Opposition in Lufa MP Jeffrey Kuare, who supported the motion and thereby went against his leader Belden Namah and his 14 members.

Prime Minister O’Neill when making his statement to the House said there was no need for speeches as it was obvious to everyone that the country needed stability.

"I do not need to tell the House why we need this (amendment). The obvious consequences of instability that we have had in the past was when governments had only managed numbers on this floor of Parliament and forgot about running the country on behalf of the people," Mr. O’Neill said.

He said the consequences of instability included the run-down state of Parliament, schools, hospitals, infrastructure and law and order that have deteriorated over the years.

"That is why as we move into this new term of parliament it gives us a unique opportunity for us to put our country into the right path; the right path for the development (we) deserve," the PM said.

Mr. O’Neill said the confidence of the people and investors are there but they will only continue to have confidence in government if there is stability in parliament.

"People forget that it is not about the Prime Minister; it is not about one person holding onto this government. This Parliament will continue to hold any Prime Minister or Minister accountable. Parliament through its wisdom has all those accountabilities in place. It is not about one individual person; it is about our people and our country. Leaders who want to become Prime Minister or Minister must get the mandate from the people," the PM said.

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