NOT even the Opposition camp was prepared for the drama which unfolded in Parliament yesterday as 18 Opposition MPs joined the Government side.
The 55 Opposition MPs who had been camping together at Vanimo in West Sepik and at a hotel in Port Moresby since the Nov 13 sitting of Parliament had signed the Wutung Accord to pledge their allegiance to what they had agreed to do, including the moving of a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister James Marape.
But all broke loose yesterday and the accord discarded when Kompiam-Ambum MP Sir John Pundari left the Opposition bench and casually walked across to the Government side, amid claps and shouts of “keep on coming”.
Bulolo MP and United Labour Party leader Sam Basil then picked up his bags and followed him. Then Gumine MP Nick Kuman was next, followed by Dei MP Westley Nukundj.
Other MPs to follow were Ijivitari MP Richard Masere, North Waghi MP Fabian Pok, Moresby North East MP John Kaupa, Madang Governor Peter Yama, Sumkar MP Chris Nangoi, Lufa MP Morave Kavori, Wosera-Gawi MP Jospeh Yopyopy, ENB Governor Nakukis Konga, WNB Governor Sasindra Muthuvel, Talasea MP Francis Manake, Kiriwin Goodenough MP Douglas Tomuriesa, Laigaim Porgera MP Tomait Kapili and Raicoast MP Peter Sapia.
Kagua-Erave MP Wesley Raminai had returned to the Government side two weeks ago when they arrived back in Port Moresby from the Vanimo camp.
PM’s apology prompted Sir John to rejoin Govt
AN apology from Prime Minister James Marape for any wrongdoing he might have done while in office convinced Kopiam-Ambum MP Sir John Pundari to return to the government benches yesterday.
Sir John was the first to cross the floor when the House began yesterday’s sitting at around 11am, followed by 17 other MPs who had joined the Opposition on Nov 13.
He explained that he had received a phone call earlier from Marape apologising to him for any wrong he might have done in the past 18 months in office.
“All that has happened has happened. It is a learning curve for all of us,” Sir John said.
“I have experienced a PM who is different and admits his mistakes. He was willing to listen and has lived up to expectations.
“No one deserves any credit for what happened on the floor of Parliament. Your prayers have been answered and his will has been done. You have humbled yourself and said let’s work together for the common good.”
He requested Marape to let God lead.
“The only desire and priority is to give this country a few minutes (to pray). This country is going through issues and we need to go back to putting the country first and putting the space to God in the office of the PM.”
Sir John, the leader of the Liberal Party, said he was not after any ministerial portfolio.
Basil apologises for wasting four weeks
BULOLO MP Sam Basil has apologised for wasting four weeks in the Opposition, saying he is returning to the Government after ironing out “a few issues” with Prime Minister James Marape.
“What you have seen is part of our democratic process (which) sometimes happens to tell the PM that operates under the same law and system that sometimes we don’t agree on things but (he has) to listen to us,” Basil said.
“I say sorry to all (that) we have wasted four weeks. We do not want it to continue for another two weeks.”
Basil said Marape was full of confidence.
“I was part of the group which left (because) we had a few issues. And I am happy that the PM has ironed out those issues and we have returned.
“The 18 MPs have given the PM confidence to govern this nation to 2022.
“We kept an open dialogue. All issues and concerns we have raised to the PM he has taken care of. We are happy to go forward.”
Marape said Basil was among those who had an ambition to become PM.
“Basil or even (Aitape-Lumi MP Patrick) Pruaitch can (try) to be PM,” he said.
“I have always stated that if you lead a political party and have numbers behind you and have policies, you have the right to be PM. We knew it was coming.”
Namah plans to challenge Parliament events in court
OPPOSITION Leader Belden Namah plans to challenge in court proceedings in Parliament yesterday “in the interest of democracy and good governance”.
Namah said there were at least three issues that the Opposition deemed were unconstitutional:
- The adjournment of Parliament to April next year;
- The 2021 Budget process;
- The motion of no confidence filed on Monday.
Namah said they would also challenge some of Speaker Job Pomat’s decisions.
He said the 37 MPs left in the Opposition agreed that Parliament should resume and the democratic processes restored.
“We will not let the prime minister shut down our democracy for five months. We will exercise our Constitutional right to have Parliament sit and consider unresolved business,” he said.
The Opposition had 55 MPs on its side when the 109-seat House met on Monday as ordered by the Supreme Court last week.
They had signed an agreement pledging their loyalty to the team which had been camped for three weeks at Vanimo in West Sepik.
Namah moved a motion of no confidence on Monday against Prime Minister James Marape, seconded by Abau MP Sir Puka Temu.
Marape to name new cabinet line-up
PRIME Minister James Marape is expected to name a revised Cabinet line-up today after 18 MPs returned to the Government side from the Opposition yesterday.
“We look forward to restoring a government structure which is truly representative of the diversity we have in our country,” he said.
“We will fill (the Cabinet positions) and restore the government that will take the country into 2021.”
Nine members of Cabinet joined the Opposition on Nov 13 forcing Marape to assign their portfolios to those who stayed back.
He could not say yesterday whether the defectors would get Cabinet positions again although he allowed Bulolo MP Sam Basil to sit in the deputy PM seat in Parliament.
Marape said he would announce a new line-up after “consultation”.
He said the Government decided to adjourn Parliament to April 20 next year to ensure that schools could start smoothly in January.
In February and March, the national census and common roll would be conducted to prepare for the 2022 general election.
“The caucus allowed the deferral to April 20 next year because (we need) to have stability in the first two or three months to get schools started,” he said.
He said leaders of political parties should be given a fair opportunity to contest the 2022 general election.
“I give this commitment to all who are with me,” he said.
Four weeks of sanity paid off as govt numbers boosted in Parliament
PRIME Minister James Marape says what happened in Parliament yesterday was the result of “four weeks of sanity”.
He said the 52 MPs who stuck by him since the defection of some including Government ministers on Nov 13 had been holding the fort well.
“We’ve been in this political contest and today we saw parliament again at work,” he said.
“I thank the people of our country for remaining steadfast, maintaining generally law and order and allowing politicians to play out the political game.
“After four weeks of different locations in as far as our politics was concerned, sanity did prevail today. I thank God for the understanding and commonsense that prevailed.”
Marape acknowledged the MPs who had made the call to stop holding the country to ransom.
“What we can achieve at the close of 2020 and what politics can do in the close of 2020 financial and business year and 2021 is expected to start off in a hard prospect because of the economic contractions taking place globally as a result of Covid-19.
“Sanity did prevail in some of our senior leaders taking control of the situation. I pay respect to Sir John Pundari and his team who felt that they needed to put a stop to this unnecessary play prolonging the political tension.
“I also acknowledge Bulolo MP Sam Basil and his team and all the 18 MPs who finally said enough was enough.
“We kept an open dialogue and these brothers who are standing with me have also been keeping an open conversation with us.”
Marape admitted that he was not “perfect” as a prime minister.
“I am not a perfect PM. I possibly made some mistakes. Some of the MPs who left came back and pointed out the areas that I needed to improve on.
“If there were any areas I needed to improve on as prime minister, then I’m here to be corrected, advised and counseled and for us to do better going forward.”