Five members of PNG PM's party resign

5:18 am on 29 April 2019

Five members of Papua New Guinea's government have resigned from the party of prime minister Peter O'Neill.

It follows the resignation of two high level government ministers earlier this month, the latest sign that Mr O'Neill's support is collapsing and the government could soon change.

The five members of Papua New Guinea's government who have resigned.

The five members of Papua New Guinea's government who have resigned. Photo: Twitter/ @pesmoni

The five government MPs, including announced their resignations from the People's National Congress at a press conference yesterday in Port Moresby.

Influential Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas was flanked by the governors of Southern Highlands and Hela provinces, William Powi and Philip Undialu and two other MPs.

These leaders are from the same resource rich Highlands region as Peter O'Neill, and have until now been key allies for him in the PNC, the party which has dominated PNG politics for the past several years.

The resignations happened while Mr O'Neill was in Beijing with a government delegation, attending China's Belt and Road global forum.

After news broke that more allies were leaving, the prime minister said he respected their decisions.

"PNC has supported them in many (more) ways than one, so that they can retain their positions and their role as members of parliament," he reflected.

But the resignations appear to strengthen PNG's parliamentary opposition which is planning on tabling a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister when parliament resumes next month.

PNG PM Peter O'Neill

PNG PM Peter O'Neill Photo: AFP / Peter Parks

The Komo Margarima MP Manasseh Makiba, and the Esa'ala MP Davis Steven, who resigned as Attorney-General last week, were the other MPs at the presser resigning from PNC.

The resigning MPs raised their disatisfaction with the government's handling of the Papua LNG Project agreement signed this month with French company Total SA, warning that interests of provinces and landowners were not being protected.

They lamented that promised equity and royalty benefits from PNG's first big LNG gas project, based in their provinces, had still not transpired, ten years after that project agreement.


At the press conference, Sir Peter and Mr Steven revealed they would be returning to the People's Party led by Jiwaka Governor, William Tongamp, who also attended the announcement.

The Party was founded thirteen years ago by Sir Peter who said it was always understood he and other MPs who also joined the PNC to help it in the 2017 election would later return.

"We are still part of the O'Neil government, but we are aligning ourselves in our own party," the Enga governor said.

That his return to the People's Party was part of an earlier arrangement was backed up by Mr O'Neill himself in Beijing.

Mr O'Neill said there were always movements in a large party such as the PNC.

"Despite a little bit of movement on the floor of parliament and in the party, I can asure you that our government is very stable in the sense that we've got quite a large number."

The prime minister said he expected the opposition would "make a big noise" out of Friday's resignations.

An ExxonMobil LNG Project plant near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

An ExxonMobil LNG Project plant near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Hela discontent

Hela's Governor Undialu said he decided to resign as he'd had enough of the neglect of his province despite it being home to a project generating between 12 and 15 billion kina every year.

"What happened to the revenue coming on from our oil and gas resources?" Mr Undialu asked.

"What happened to Porgera mine revenue, what happened to fisheries and forestries?"

He said MPs could not continue to pretend everything was ok.

"I am furious about prime minister flying to China today to obtain more loans," Mr Undialu explained.

"We have obtained so much loans, and most of these loans are concentrated in one, two or three centres in this country."

After mistakes made in the first LNG Project, Mr Undialu said that trusted that the second would be better.

"Believe it or not, the second LNG is worse than the first LNG Project. And I hold this government accountable for the reckless decision we have made to sell our future."

Mr O'Neill said he took note of the resigning MPs expressing their differences with government policy.

"But quite frankly, I am yet to see a policy proposal in writing or otherwise made to government in the past eight years."

A view of the government benches in Papua New Guinea's parliament.

A view of the government benches in Papua New Guinea's parliament. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Political Stability

For Manasseh Makiba, in his first term of parliament, the decision to leave the party stems from a conviction that government is on a path that could destroy the nation.

He said that after being elected as an independent MP in 2017, he opted to join the PNC-led government in the interests of maintinaing the political stability that he believed Peter O'Neill was forging.

"I was of the view that political stability was a positive force to develop and progress our country forward," he explained.

"But now I have come to realise as a consequence that if we do not have good policies in government, political stabilty can be used as a sham to entrench and perpetuate corruption undermining of institutional process and the rule of law."

PNG parliament

PNG parliament Photo: AFP

Echoing this, Governor Powi revealed that in his view the biggest danger facing PNG "is the abuse and misuse of the institutions of government".

In his response, Peter O'Neill defended his government's approach to developing the country's provinces and districts.

"Our country has a bright future, but only selfish and self-indulgence politics will continue to destroy and derail the development agenda that our country truly deserves."

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