PNG PM survives no confidence vote

4:02 pm on 22 July 2016

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has easily survived a vote of no-confidence in the national parliament.

The parliament sat for the vote today amid heavy police presence in the capital, Port Moresby.

After over an hour of increasingly intense debate, the speaker disallowed further discussion and the vote took place.

Mr O'Neill won the vote of no confidence moved against him 85 to 21.

The opposition had brought the motion against Mr O'Neill, saying he had to be removed over a long list of abuses of office as well as mismanagement of the economy.

Parliament has been adjourned to 9 August.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill gives a talk at the Lowy Institute in Sydney on May 14, 2015.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill gives a talk at the Lowy Institute in Sydney on 14 May. Photo: AFP/Peter Parks

Mr O'Neill has been fighting for his political survival since PNG police opened fire on protesting university students calling for his resignation over corruption allegations in June.

Government and opposition groupings had been in their respective camps lobbying ahead of today's vote.

The PNG Government caucus meeting at Alotau in Milne Bay, July 2016

The PNG government caucus meeting at Alotau in Milne Bay Photo: Supplied

As of Thursday, at least 60 MPs were reported to have gathered at Alotau, the prime minister's camp, but opposition leader Don Polye said he had the support of three former PNG prime ministers, including Sir Michael Somare, seen as the father of PNG independence.

Protests and strike action to continue

A civil society group in PNG said before the vote that it would continue to encourage civil disobedience if Mr O'Neill survived it.

The group said some airline, maritime, energy and health workers were observing its call not to go to work until the prime minister stepped aside or was removed from office.

Unions representing doctors and pilots endorsed the call for protest, while the Maritime and Transport Workers Union denied that port workers were taking part.

But the civil society group's leader, Moses Murray, said the port workers were performing what was known as a go-slow.

"They are continuing to employ that tactic. They have come under pressure from certain business organisations who have their cargos on the boats that are anchored in Port Moresby harbour waiting to be cleared."

He added the action would continue until the prime minister went.

"We'll maintain the course and we'll go on until, which ever way it happens. If the prime minister resigns or is voted out in a no-confidence motion, this whole thing is called off."

Members of parliament stand to the right of the speaker (R) to approve the vote of Peter O'Neill as prime minister in Port Moresby on August 3, 2012.

MPs stand to the right of the speaker to approve the vote of Mr O'Neill as PM on 3 August 2012. Photo: AFP/Ness Kerton

Doctors issue strike ultimatum

The doctors' union had said it would proceed with strike action next month even if Mr O'Neill was toppled by today's vote.

The National Doctors Association said the strike would begin on 4 August unless the government reversed a 30 percent cut to the health budget and re-opened the country's medical school.

The association was also calling for Mr O'Neill to step aside, and had given its blessing to doctors who took part in civil disobedience in support of that call.

Association general secretary Sam Yockopua said doctors in hospitals around the country had been protesting against the prime minister.

"So members of the association have chosen not to turn up for work, or either to turn up for work but to become unproductive.

"That is called civil disobedience and it is their inherent constitutional right, and it is their democratic right to do so."

Mr Yockopua said other trade unions in PNG had been intimidated by the government and were failing to support calls for Mr O'Neill's removal.

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Port Moresby Photo: RNZ/ Koro Vaka'uta

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