Only seven governors attend PNG’s covid crisis planning meeting

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PNG covid meeting for election planning
Issues have been raised about the lack of cohesion over covid policy between the national government and provinces as Papua New Guinea faces a general election next year. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Thierry Lepani in Port Moresby

Only seven governors out of Papua New Guinea’s 21 provinces and Bougainville attended a meeting in the capital Port Moresby to discuss issues surrounding the covid-19 pandemic crisis and the National General Elections due next year.

However, while Prime Minister James Marape confirmed seven had attended, only four were counted at the event. They were NCD Governor Powes Parkop, Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas, Chimbu Governor Michael Dua and Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta.

The meeting on Thursday was held with Health Minister Jelta Wong and Secretary Dr Osbourne Liko to discuss the covid-19 crisis with the vaccine roll out also on the agenda.

At least 10,997 cases have been recorded in Papua New Guinea with 107 deaths and the nation’s health system has been severely stretched. Less than 1 percent of the population of almost 9 million have been vaccinated.

Issues have been raised about the lack of cohesion over covid policy between the national government and provinces.

Discussions were also held with Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai about plans for next year, and how the provinces will prepare for the ballot.

Poor turnout
But, the poor turnout of governors as they face various hardships back in their provinces raised concerns about how aligned the government’s strategy will be implemented.

The Post-Courier spoke to the West New Britain Governor Sasindran Muthuvel who said: “I was aware of the meeting but needed to travel back home for launching of several projects.”

He added that he needed to discuss the vaccination roll out with provincial officials as they had received doses just last week.

West Sepik Governor Tony Wouwou told the Post-Courier that he was not even informed that such a meeting was taking place.

Marape said moving forward the provinces would be empowered to “tailor make” their solutions, as the government will not micromanage.

He urged all provinces to provide their own response plan to the government as a uniformed approach is not possible given the unique sets of challenges facing each province.

Thierry Lepani is a PNG Post-Courier reporter.

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