PNG opposition outwitted by the government again

4:45 pm on 6 June 2024
Papua New Guinea Parliament in session on Wednesday. 5 June 2024

Papua New Guinea Parliament in session on Wednesday. 5 June 2024 Photo: Screengrab/Facebook/Papua New Guinea Parliament

Yet again, the Papua New Guinea opposition has failed to file a motion for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister James Marape.

It was their fourth attempt to unseat Marape since February this year.

The opposition's next chance will be in early September, after MPs voted on Wednesday to end the current session early.

Our correspondent in PNG, Scott Waide, spoke to Don Wiseman about the Speaker's ruling that the opposition's motion was not correctly filled in.

Scott Waide: Looking at it from the outside, the opposition is basically frustrated over this [decision by the Speaker]. And yesterday it showed in Parliament when there was this uproar after the Speaker tried to explain that there were technicalities around the notice that was given to the Private Business Committee to deliberate on. Now, it boiled down to the official names of the members of parliament. According to the Speaker, the surname had to come after the first name. Some of them had their names listed, especially one Western Province MP, Maso Hewabi, who argued that the name that he submitted for the writs during the elections was Hewabi Maso. And that's also brought out the names of others and the Speaker was trying to clarify that. But that frustrated a lot of opposition MPs who felt that that issue could have been brought up during the first time they submitted the Notice of Motion.

DW: Well, Speaker Job Pomat has said he'll get legal advice on this, and if he's shown to be wrong, he'll resign.

SW: It'll be an interesting few hours seeing Job Pomat go to court. It's a matter of interpretation, again, with the Speaker saying this is my interpretation, and I will go to court to get the court's interpretation. We've seen that done before in other scenarios similar to this, with Don Polye and Peter O'Neill. So it'll be interesting to see what the outcome is when court deliberates.

DW: Now, there was a vote to end the session and to resume in September. And there was very little opposition to that. Would that indicate that the opposition actually didn't have the numbers anyway?

SW: I wouldn't know. They seemed very confident that they would have the numbers. A lot of people are saying it gives them time to deliberate. Between now and September, it gives a lot of time for the government to manoeuvre and coax the members of parliament who are in opposition to return to the government. So it's all that dynamic at play. It just gives the government enough time to work again. And the opposition also.

DW: PNG is a country that's wracked with issues that need to be dealt with, need to be dealt with promptly, yet this session now and the session back in February, and I guess, the session that's coming up in September, they're all being dominated by this threat of a vote of no confidence. Their priorities are all wrong.

SW: Yeah, a few MPs have come out and said that. As I said, previously, the Speaker was disappointed in relation to Enga [landslip at Yambali], that attention has shifted from Enga to the vote of no confidence and in a space of a few hours. And, again, you can see on social media as well, a lot of attention is on on the vote of no confidence. They're talking about the economy and all that, but there's a lot of discussion around the entertainment factor of Parliament and the vote of no confidence, without consideration of the real issues.

DW: The opposition had, as you say, been talking about law and order and the various other issues facing the country. Do you think that they would have made that much difference anyway. They were essentially made up of largely members who had been in the government until just a few weeks ago.

SW: We've seen from past experience, a change in government through a vote of no confidence doesn't necessarily mean the problems will get solved. We've seen that with the change in government from Peter O'Neill to James Marape. Marape was the deputy at the time and there were a lot of promises made about fixing the problems that Papua New Guinea has.

Now, those are the same problems that have been taken up by the opposition, and were calling for a change of government again. So between 2024 and 2027, there is not enough time to implement everything. It will have to take another term after the elections to actually, if they have the political will, and the stamina, to cause change and implement change.

One of the key points that was brought about during the Parliament yesterday was by Belden Namah, the member for Vanimo Green, about the enforcement of laws. He basically said that while we're able to pass legislation, the enforcement is weak. That's one of the key issues facing every government. Legislations are done, policies are done, but implementation and the enforcement is lacking.