PNG opposition lose no-confidence vote but challenge gagged debate

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EMTV News clip featuring the restricted parliamentary debate on the no-confidence vote and closing out of discussion of student unrest.

By Serah Aupong in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s no-confidence parliamentary vote has been defeated with an overwhelming 85 to 21 votes in favour of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s government.

The opposition came into the chamber knowing they did not have the numbers to win but used the opportunity to air their frustrations against the Prime Minister.

At the end of the session, the opposition left disappointed not only at losing the vote but in what they claim as suppression of a full debate of the motion.

The government did what it promised, hold together and defeat the no-confidence vote.

However before the vote was taken, there was more than an hour of heated debate which included pointing of fingers, out of order point of orders and swearing.

-Partners-

Keeping within the specifics of the recent court order ensuring the vote went ahead, the speaker allowed debate before the vote was taken.

Deputy Opposition Leader Sam Basil, as sponsor of the motion, outlined the opposition’s reasons for the motion, which included the lack of debate of the 2016 Budget, implementation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Paraka payment issue, disbanding of Taskforce Sweep and the LNG revenue.

Legal reasons
Then Kelly Naru, who had declared allegiance to the rule of law during the week of lobbying, outlined legal reasons for siding with O’Neill.

Following this, Kavieng member Ben Micah talked about telling the truth where he accused members of parliament of not taking into consideration the truth about issues that affect the nation.

From the government, leader of Government Business and Finance Minister James Marape, was the only one who spoke formally during the debate.

He said the motion was “hollow” and was used to cause instability and chaos. He said the government had delivered on 90 percent of its promises.

Towards the end of Marape’s speech, the Speaker stopped debate and moved to take the vote.

This did not go down well with the opposition who still had plenty more to say.

Member for Vanimo Green, Belden Namah, accused the Speaker of hijacking parliamentary procedure.

Screaming match
He refused to sit down, and a screaming match followed from both sides of the House.

In an attempt to restore order on the floor of Parliament, the Speaker stood up. According to parliamentary standing orders, when the Speaker stands all members must sit down.

After reminding the house of that standing order, Parliament quietened down and the vote was taken.

In his earlier speech opening debate on the vote, Deputy Opposition Leader, Sam Basil, attacked the Prime Minister over LNG revenue and the allegations levelled against him.

Much of the debate has previously happened outside of the Parliament House, but the opposition had a lot to say on the floor of Parliament.

Basil also raised concerns regarding budget cuts to church-run health agencies, the underfunding of the Electoral Commission, and the lack of debate about two months of student unrest calling on the Prime Minister to resign.

Serah Aupong is a senior journalist with EMTV News.

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