By GYNNIE KERO and REBECCA KUKU
THE People’s National Congress Party MPs and its leader Peter O’Neill are expected to be moved to the Opposition benches from today, as the Government makes changes to the composition of its coalition.
Leader of Government Business and Finance Minister Rainbo Paita told The National yesterday that it would be an “interesting” two-week session of Parliament.
“Some major decisions will be made this week on the composition of both the Government and the Opposition,” he said.
He did not elaborate but it is understood that it also included changes to Cabinet portfolios.
Paita said Parliament would sit for two weeks to:
- elect an Opposition Leader to replace Vanimo-Green MP Belden Namah who the court says is “still suspended”;
- debate on an amendment to the Pandemic Bill;
- vote on the ICAC Bill and the Electronic Transaction Bill.
It is expected to vote on the amendment to the Superannuation (General Provisions) Act which needs to be approved by Parliament to allow members of superfunds who have been laid off to withdraw part of their retirement savings.
“And an assessment report on the Covid-19 will also be presented and discussion on whether to extend the state of emergency or not,” Paita said.
On the changes to the seating arrangements in the House, Prime Minister James Marape said in a statement the People’s National Congress Party (PNC) MPs “will no longer have seats in the Government benches”.
“PNC Party members continue to participate in the Government caucus but speak as opposition to my Government,” he said.
“So it is only fair that all of them are (grouped) in the Opposition to speak fair and freely against the Government, as their leader has been doing.”
He said O’Neill “continues to oppose Government in the media, in court and in person”.
“It is only fair that he opposes formally from the opposite benches,” he said.
“My Government is cleaning up on a lot of mess, the last one year due to the O’Neill-led government (years of) recklessness, camouflaging with shady infrastructural contracts and feel-good public policies like free education that gave them the licence to recklessness.
“That mess, we the present Government have inherited and are responsibly cleaning, including settling their debts and liabilities.”
In response, O’Neill said last night it was “an old story”.
“He (Marape) said the same thing six months ago. PNC is already sitting in the middle benches and we will support any legislation that is in the interest of our country and the people,” O’Neill said.
“The PNC caucus will meet and discuss any proposed legislation as it comes before the House.”
O’Neill had earlier said the party had 17 MPs including recently-elected Menyamya MP Benjamin Philip.