PNG PM To Face No-Confidence Motion As Protests Continue

Parliament to reconvene, may suspend rules to debate, vote today

By Papua New Guinea correspondent Eric Tlozek

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 15, 2016) – Members of the Papua New Guinea parliament are due to debate a motion for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Peter O'Neill today, something his Government has tried to avoid for almost nine months.

The MPs have been recalled by the PNG Supreme Court, which ruled government attempts to avoid a vote of no confidence were unconstitutional.

It is not clear whether MPs will vote when parliament sits today, or whether the Speaker will adjourn for a constitutionally-mandated seven day period, before members come back to decide who they support.

[PIR editor's note: On July 15, 2016 PNG Post-Courier reported that 'The normal business of Parliament will be suspended to entertain the vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill today. ... This is in view of an earlier option to conduct business as normal, meaning allowing the introduction of the motion and waiting the required seven days before the actual vote can be taken which would have been next Friday. ... Officials said that on resumption the leader of government business will move for the suspension of Standing Orders to allow introduction of the notice of motion, debate and the subsequent nomination with a seconder of the Opposition’s prime ministerial candidate.']

If the vote does take place the Opposition needs 56 votes in the 111-seat parliament to succeed in removing Mr O'Neill.

The Government and Opposition are disagreeing about the interpretation of the Supreme Court order that forced the recall of parliament.

The Government's coalition partners acknowledge the pressure is mounting, and they have urged the Prime Minister to find a solution.

Mr O'Neill's support will be tested in parliament as protests outside ramp up.

This week pilots have stopped work, demanding the Prime Minister step down and allow police to question him over corruption allegations.

There have been long lines at Air Niugini's customer service desk at Port Moresby airport for the past two days as pilots called in sick, stranding thousands of passengers.

"They told us today the flight is cancelled and they've told us to come back tomorrow and check in again," a passenger said.

Air Niugini said the flights were cancelled because of "technical crewing issues".

Civil disobedience will 'result in chaos'

Earlier in the week, pilots were one of the main professional groups vowing to stop work if Mr O'Neill did not step down within 48 hours.

In response, PNG's National Security Advisory Council established a joint security taskforce — led by police — to deal with the unrest.

The council's chairman, Government Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, said it would investigate threats to national security.

"Warning union leaders, politicians, landowners, so-called professionals, busy-bodies, any person that takes the law into their hands and threatens lives of Papua New Guineans, be warned, you will be caught," he said.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki said he was calling on the PNG Defence Force to deploy its soldiers to help his officers.

The civil disobedience by pilots could be followed by strikes from health workers, who gave a seven-day deadline for the Prime Minister to step aside.

The unrest has got senior members of the governing coalition worried.

Ben Micah, the leader of the People's Progress Party and the Minister for Petroleum and Energy, said threats by workers to withdraw their services "will ultimately result in chaos".

'We only would like to see Peter O'Neill change'

PNG's Opposition Leader Don Polye said the security taskforce was an attempt by the Government to suppress dissent.

"What they're doing is they're establishing all kinds of taskforces, bodies here and there, to subjugate and oppress a nation," he said.

The Opposition has forced a parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.

Earlier this week, Mr Polye won a case in the Supreme Court which found Government attempts to avoid the vote were unconstitutional.

But to win in parliament, he needs Government MPs to abandon Mr O'Neill and join him.

"We are not against everybody in government. We only would like to see the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill change," Mr Polye said.

Mr O'Neill issued a statement yesterday urging Papua New Guineans to embrace the importance of political stability.

The Prime Minister said the Opposition only wanted to score political points, and warned of consequences to the economy and investment if the Government changed.

Radio Australia
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