4 May 2017

PNG PM in firing line in Popondetta

9:55 am on 4 May 2017

Papua New Guinea's prime minister has been criticised for not attending the opening of a hospital facility in Oro province.

Peter O'Neill, as well as opposition leader Don Polye and the Oro Governor Gary Juffa were expected to attend the opening of the Popondetta General Hospital Operating Theatre.

The prime minister is understood to have pulled out at the last minute.

Mr Juffa criticised Mr O'Neill for not informing him of his plans and taking credit for the operating theatre when it was a project initiated by the previous government.

Mr Polye told the crowd he'd been invited to the opening by the Oro Governor.

Oro Governor and Papua New Guinea Opposition Leader Don Polye in Popondetta, 2 May 2017.

Oro Governor and Papua New Guinea Opposition Leader Don Polye in Popondetta, 2 May 2017. Photo: Supplied

He told a crowd in Popondetta that Mr O'Neill continued to mislead on the dire state of PNG's economy.

"I as the leader of the opposition stand to tell the people of this country the truth, and I challenge Prime Minister O'Neill to tell the truth to this nation, otherwise the people of this country will suffer because of the destruction and the lies that have been told continuously, again and again, by the prime minister."

Meanwhile, Peter O'Neill's office has issued a press release, on behalf of the Health Minister Michael Malabag, regarding the Popondetta facility.

It said the minister had announced that the formal opening ceremony for the Popondetta General Hospital Operating Theatre had been deferred until after the upcoming national elections which start in late June.

Mr Malabag said the opening of the healthcare infrastructure "should not be politicised by desperate politicians".

"Desperate and uninvited politicians tried to hijack the hospital opening, stir up the crowd and politicise what should be free of political grandstanding" he said.

However the Oro Governor has accused supporters of Mr O'Neill's People's National Congress party of hijacking the event to promote its election campaign.

Mr Juffa urged PM O'Neill to seek counselling on how to respect protocols.

Despite his intention that the formal opening be delayed, the prime minister has instructed that the new Popondetta health facility will be open to the public this week.