New PNG prime minister calls for unity

11:15 am on 31 May 2019

Papua New Guinea's new prime minister has called on parliament to come together and work for the common good of the country.

James Marape (right) is hugged by a supporter.

James Marape (right) is hugged by a supporter. Photo: Photo / AFP

The member for Tari-Pori, James Marape, was voted in by fellow MPs on Thursday and sworn in at Government House, following the resignation of Peter O'Neill on Wednesday.

During his maiden speech at parliament Mr Marape likened himself to a choir master bringing different singers together to deliver a harmonious performance.

Members from both sides of the house were implored to follow "his music".

"I will conduct and try my absolute best and every one of you can sing your parts," he said.

"Some of you will sing the bass parts, some of you will sing the soprano, the alto, the melody. Combined we can make a song that our children shall truly deserve in this country. No child must be left behind."

The house was told by Mr Marape that he wanted PNG to be "the richest, black, Christian nation on planet Earth" within a decade.

He said being elected to the role is the highest honour and privilege, one he doesn't take for granted.

His fellow MPs were thanked for placing their trust in him and as the country's eighth prime minister, he acknowledged former leaders in the house including Mr O'Neill.

The wisdom, age and experience of political veterans, according to Mr Marape, was an important resource for him to draw on.

"But more importantly for me, I'm encouraged, strengthened and comforted by the fact that I have energy, youth, and strength and stamina in many first timers and second timers who are in this house on both sides of the floor," said James Marape.

In the vote for leadership, Mr Marape easily defeated former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta by 101 votes to eight.

Afterwards, Sir Mekere congratulated Mr Marape and told him he had a large and heavy task in front of him to change the course that the country has been on.

"If you want to demonstrate that your government will set a new course, a course different from the government you left and rejoined, you need to address corruption and abuse, mismanagement of public finances and a growing mountain of debt," said Mekere Morauta.

Having recently taken up the leadership of Pangu, Mr Marape has now reinstalled PNG's oldest political grouping as the ruling party after two decades as a marginal influence in parliament.

James Marape left being sworn in as prime minister of Papua New Guine by the governor general Sir Robert Dadae. 30 May 2019

James Marape left being sworn in as prime minister of Papua New Guine by the governor general Sir Robert Dadae. 30 May 2019 Photo: PNG prime minister's office media

The new PM has been urged by Sir Mekere and other MPs to take a fresh approach to addressing the country's struggles - including an ailing economy, deteriorating basic services, governance problems and uneven benefits from the country's resource wealth.

The people of Papua New Guinea want opportunities, said Sir Mekere, not more empty promises.

"Prime Minister, you have to change the course of MV PNG because the course we are following now, we are facing cyclonic winds and heavy weather. Prime Minister, you have a large and very heavy task in front of you. The people of Papua New Guinea are suffering."

Key ministerial appointments in the Marape-led government are expected to be announced in the coming days.

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