20 MPs walk out as PNG’s Tkatchenko apologises for ‘media trolls’ comment

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PNG's stood down Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko
PNG's stood down Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko (bottom right inset) . . . he explained to Parliament that his controversial comments were directed at "faceless people" who spent their days on social media hidden behind false names. Image: PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

The last time Papua New Guinea heard “there is a stranger in the House” was when two men walked into Parliament saying they were members of a district after the 2017 national general election.

After six years the word “stranger” has again been mentioned, this time by a fiery Vanimo-Green MP Belden Namah, who voiced his displeasure when Member for Moresby South Justin Tkatchenko — the stood down Foreign Minister — stood to make his apology in Parliament yesterday.

As Tkatchenko spoke, 20 MPs walked out of the chamber in protest.

Namah, who is known to not mince his words, stood saying, “This House is the House of useless people and primitive animals. Why is this stranger allowed parliamentary privileges to make a statement?”

“He made a statement to international media. He should not be allowed to make a statement today, he should resign in disgrace and get out of this Parliament,” Namah yelled on the floor of Parliament.

As the acting Speaker Koni Iguan called for Namah to allow Tkatchenko to speak, Namah said: “ Mr Acting Speaker, he should not be allowed to speak in this Parliament.”

The public gallery was on the edge as people watched the fiery interaction between Namah, Tkatchenko and Iguan.

Ministers interjected
Several ministers interjected when Namah called Tkatchenko a “stranger”, saying that “he is a member of Parliament, he had been elected by the people of Moresby South”.

Finally Iguan reminded Namah that Tkatchenko was not a “stranger” but the MP of Moresby South.

With that final response and as Tkatchenko stood to apologise, Namah walked out followed by several governors and members of Parliament.

Tkatchenko reiterated that his comments had not been made towards the country and its people, but to individuals who were better known as “social media trolls”.

“The people of our nation want to know the truth of what was said, how this was intended, how this was manipulated and what was actually meant by my words. I made comments in a media interview that were targeted at what are better known as social media trolls,” he said.

These were “faceless people” who spent their days on social media hidden behind false names.

“They say the most disgusting things and make the most vile threats on social media,” he said.

“Regardless of any office that I represent or position that I might hold, above all else in life, first and foremost, I am the father of my children. And when I saw the vile and disgusting things that were being said about my daughter, I did have a burst of blind fury at these horrible individuals,” he added.

These disgusting individuals, some in Papua New Guinea, as well as in Australia, the UK and other places, were making sexual threats against my daughter, threatening her with “all manner of disgusting remarks”, Tkatchenko said.

“I speak with every parent in this House, and every parent in our Nation today – and seek your understanding of how angry and frustrated I was, — and still am — at these trolls.”

Miriam Zarriga is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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