PNG opposition warns govt as it tries to rally support for motion

11:48 am on 20 December 2018
Bryan Kramer.

Bryan Kramer. Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Koroi Hawkins

An opposition MP in Papua New Guinea is warning the government not to interfere with the democratic process.

The opposition is planning to move a motion of no-confidence in prime minister Peter O'Neill in February, once a grace period on such motions ends.

The Madang MP Bryan Kramer said the government has tried to avoid the motion by moving the year's first parliamentary session forward into January.

But he said he's confident Mr O'Neill will face a vote in the session, saying public appetite for change runs deep.

"I've already put the government on notice that if you guys try to interfere with the democratic process, then the only option left is for the people to weigh in on this issue.

"So what they saw in parliament with the police and security forces (going on a rampage over payment grievances with government) is nothing compared to what will come if they continue to hijack the process and run the country as if it's a dictatorship."

Among PNG's pressing problems troubling its citizens, Mr Kramer said "we've got a drug shortage, a cash flow shortage, we've got borrowing debt on bonds to pay off domestic debt".

While the opposition says there is growing discontent with Mr O'Neill's leadership among his coalition, government MPs whom RNZ Pacific has spoken to have voiced their loyalty to the prime minister.

Government MPs say that Mr O'Neill has steered the country through difficult times, such as an economic slump caused by external factors, and that the country was well placed for the long term.

The Mendi MP and Works Minister Michael Nali said he believed Mr O'Neill was leading the country well.

"O'Neill is my brother. The prime minister and I come from the same province. We come from a society where relationships - province-wise, district-wise, village-wise - mean we're always together," Mr Nali explained.

"So whoever is challenging the prime minister will be challenging me. So I'm committed to the prime minister."

However Mr Kramer said the government had failed to alleviate many struggles for ordinary Papua New Guineans, and argued that in many cases the government's management of the economy had worsened those struggles.

While the MP didn't want to see any violence, he said sometimes it fell to the people to keep governments and democracy in check.

"We've only called (previously) for passive protests because there's a degree of viciousness on the ground throughout the country.

"It's something that is very difficult to control. Imagine how bad it could get," he warned.