Pacific Media Watch newsdesk
The Post-Courier newspaper today compared Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape to the infamous emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned over his controversial Indonesian visit this week while facing an election in June.
“And [he] was clearly despised by his people,” the paper said in a scathing editorial headlined “Tari burns while Marape fiddles”.
“The frivolities of life abounded in his rule and perhaps, in his greatest haste, when his Rome roared into flames, the adage, ‘Nero fiddles while Rome burns’ has stuck to this day to depict his indifference to the suffering of his people.”
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Often used in a critical way, the paper said, the phrase had been applied colloquially to a leader who was “simply irresponsible in the face of responsibility”.
The Post-Courier said there were many examples of this in Papua New Guinea, “none more morbid and clarified as the disappearing act of our Prime Minister James Marape yesterday”.
The newspaper was criticising Marape for taking an entourage of 71 musicians on a sightseeing tour of Jakarta across the border while his “restive electorate of Tari, significant to Papua New Guinea for its oil and gas fields, sparked and is still burning today”.
Pai police barracks torched, 1 dead
One police reservist was reported dead and three houses were torched in an attack by gunmen on the Pai Police Barracks in Tari.
“How irresponsible is that? How can a Prime Minister ignore his own scorching electorate and simply fiddle his way on an overseas trip in the face of a tough upcoming national election?” the Post-Courier asked.
“His political opponents must be fiddling in glee at the very thought of political suicide.
“But the notion of our PM ignoring a serious matter such as Tuesday’s killings and injuring of policemen in his home town of Tari by angry armed locals, and the torching of a police barracks and a settlement, is tantamount to sacrilege of the code of leadership.
“Electing instead to go on a trip is akin to the ancient testament of Nero.
“Simply foolish pride and deserting one’s responsibilities in a time of grave danger is unforgivable.”
The problem with PNG leaders was that only a handful knew and practised their responsibilities with “faithful commitment”.
Marape criticises Post-Courier
Marape retorted with a statement carried by the Sunday Bulletin Facebook page denying that he had “run away from electoral duties”. He criticised the paper for stooping “low” and comparing the “once respected” Post-Courier unflatteringly with past versions.
The prime minister said the Indonesian visit had been long planned and the violence in his Tari-Pori electorate the night before the state visit was coincidental.
“The Post-Courier of today is nowhere like in the past where it had respected editors like Luke Sela, Oseah Philemon and the likes, and equally distinguished reporters,” Marape said.
“The people of PNG yearn for the once-great newspaper of old.
“I do not dictate [to] the newspapers, nor give inducements to reporters and editors, like my predecessor [as prime minister] Peter O’Neill was known for.” I did not run away from responsibilities, far from it.
“Police, and other agencies of government, have been tasked to handle Tari-Pori and other national issues.
“Tari is not burning, as [the] Post-Courier claims.
“Three police houses were torched due to a tribal conflict that had police caught in the crossfire.
“I may be MP for Tari-Pori, but I am Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, I have a country to run.”