PNG government passes budget while rebel MPs caught out of town

Haus Palamen
Haus Palamen ... a further 12 MPs have defected to the opposition, taking the total of 23 in the 118-seat Papua New Guinea Parliament. Image: Tok Pisin Dictionary

By RNZ Pacific

Politics in Papua New Guinea has been plunged into more turmoil today, with government MPs continuing to meet while the opposition was out of town, thinking they had adjourned Parliament.

The government MPs passed the Budget, and then made their own adjournment, until next April.

Last Friday, the opposition, bolstered by government MPs crossing the floor, called for an adjournment vote, which they won.

Those MPs, or an estimated 43 of them then travelled to Vanimo, to prepare for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister James Marape, with that to happen on December 1.

The date is significant because Marape’s 18-month grace period from no confidence votes would expire then.

But yesterday the Speaker, Job Pomat, announced that opposition leader Belden Namah had no right to call for an adjournment and that Parliament was still in session.

Parliament was to resume at 2pm today but Michael Kabuni, a political scientist at the University of PNG, said this was brought forward to 10am, presumably prompted by legal action the opposition’s lawyers were preparing to take.

‘They had a quorum’
“They had a quorum. You need one third of the 111 MPs present, and they had more than 37. They presented a Budget to themselves, the government MPs and they voted on it, so the Budget is passed and they also voted to adjourn the parliament to 20th of April, 2021,” Kabuni said.

A vote of no confidence seems unlikely in April next year because it would be just a year or so out from the election.

Kabuni said such a move would prompt the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and call an early poll.

Earlier today the former Commerce Minister, William Duma, who had stood shoulder to shoulder with the rebel MPs last Friday, rejoined the government, according to Kabuni.

This brought to three the number of MPs who have rejoined the government since the split.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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