PNG PM hits out over WhatsApp leak allegation

5:56 pm on 16 April 2020

Papua New Guinea's prime minister has slammed the opposition leader for alleging that he and his political party sought to defraud the country of resources in its fight against Covid-19.

PNG Prime Mnister James Marape arrives at Victoria University of Wellington, 24 February 2020

PNG Prime Mnister James Marape arrives at Victoria University of Wellington, 24 February 2020 Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

James Marape was responding to a claim by Belden Namah that the prime minister's Pangu Pati would use the pandemic response for its own strategy to get re-elected in the 2022 national elections.

Mr Namah issued a release with the claim, based on purported leaks of a Pangu Pati whatsapp group thread.

Mr Marape charaterised the release as a misleading political stunt which his legal team would examine.

The prime minister said the Vanimo Green MP's continued dirty political attacks on him were merely distracting from PNG's pressing challenge of preventing the spread of coronavirus throughout the country.

Earlier, Mr Namah said the alleged leaks from the party thread exposed Mr Marape's intention to use the pandemic as a means to enrich he and other Pangu MPs and ensure they were cashed up for the next elections.

Papua New Guinea MP for Vanimo-Green, Belden Namah.

Papua New Guinea MP for Vanimo-Green, Belden Namah. Photo: Alex Smith

The alegation came after PNG's Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey complained about alleged misuse of funds budgeted for in the government's pandemic response after the country entered a State of Emergency period.

Furthermore, some officials at provincial level had been exposed as having misappropriated money meant for the covid operations.

In response to the Treasurer's claim, Mr Marape subsequently said there had been a misquote and that the spending was all accounted for. He was less diplomatic today in responding to Mr Namah's explosive allegations that target him directly.

"Today at this time when our nation's health care system is ill prepared to handle a contagious pandemic outbreak, where every leaders at districts and provinces are back home attending to local defensive strategies to handle possible outbreaks, here we have the MP for Vanimo Green where border movement takes place more frequently, playing dirty national politics at the expense of our people and country's health," Mr Marape said in a social media post.

Mr Marape said his government was focussed on reorganising its priorities and programmes to ensure PNG people's health safety was secured not just from coronavirus but other health issues too.