PNG opposition’s Namah calls for end to ‘martial law-like’ restrictions

Belden Namah
PNG Opposition Leader Belden Namah ... “There are no hospitals full of covid-19 patients." Image: PNG Post-Courier

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Papua New Guinea’s opposition has called on the government to explain the paralysing martial law type restrictions that has crippled the economy and will take years to return to normal, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

Opposition Leader Belden Namah said blaming covid-19 was not good enough and has called for an immediate halt to all restrictions.

“There are no hospitals full of covid-19 patients,” he said.

“There has virtually been no covid-19 death.”

However, his statement came as PNG health authorities reported a further covid case of infection with a 21-year-old woman from the Gerehu suburb in the North West electorate.

Worldometer reports 532 covid-19 cases, including the Gerehu woman, and seven deaths in Papua New Guinea.

Namah said the few covid-19 deaths that had been declared were only those involving pre-existing conditions.

Thousands without work
“Yet thousands of our people are without work,” he said.

“The education of our children has been disrupted beyond possible correction this year. Businesses have been disrupted and many have closed operations.

“The restrictions imposed on our people are causing serious impacts and disrupting activities across the country.”

Namah said the revised gross domestic product (GDP) had fallen to K11 billion (NZ$4.4 billion) in 2020 compared to the 2020 budget projections.

The fiscal deficit had increased by K2 billion and the economy had gone into negative growth.

“Revenue has fallen by K3.7 billion and yet the government has not done enough to reduce expenditure, thus increasing the deficit to an unprecedented K6.6 billion equivalent to 8.1 percent of GDP.”

This increased the pressure to borrow more or print more money – “both of which carry their own short term and long term negative consequences”.

Gold mine closed
“One operating gold mine had been forced to close and new resources development projects are on hold,” he added.

Namah said the only person announcing new projects would come on stream was Prime Minister James Marape, but he has absolutely no control over or say on investment decisions.

“Under the Marape regime, foreign investors are keeping away.

All he had to do is talk to the MRA and see the significant fall in exploration activities.

Namah said Prime Minister Marape must realise it was his words and actions that were to be blamed for the current state of affairs.

“They never listened to us when the opposition first called for a closure of our international borders, for strict controls on international travels and to declare international ports and provinces sharing international border hot-spots.

“They gave us a nationwide state-of-emergency and ran it like a martial law crackdown for civil unrest and not a health emergency as it was.

No verification
“Then seeing no alarming numbers to justify their actions, the government started cooking up the numbers of those infected or deaths with absolutely no verification announced and confirmed cases turned out to be negative.

“In between all this, Prime Minister Marape has allowed international flights for a few select foreigners without adequate checks.”

He did not release promised money to Western and Sandaun provinces which shared the common border with Indonesia, with the result that most confirmed cases were in Western Province and the OK Tedi mine was forced to close.

“Now the Prime Minister has announced a relaxation on restrictions to international flights,” Namah said.

“We call on the Prime Minister to provide adequate explanations for all these decisions that have caused the country so much hardship and endangering the lives of our people.”

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