PARLIAMENT has been adjourned for six months to May next year, after Treasurer Peter O’Neill was forced to assure Speaker Jeffery Nape that K20 million would be released next week for urgent maintenance work in parliament.
The adjournment ensured the prime minister cannot face a vote of no-confidence in this term of parliament.
Before that, Nape informed the house that a notice for a vote of no-confidence, which was handed in by the opposition, was found to be defective by the Private Business Committee because three MPs who had signed the notice had withdrawn their support.
Their withdrawal reduced the signatories from 11 to eight, insufficient to uphold the notice.
The speaker’s unusual step to get O’Neill to publicly commit to releasing K20 million by next week gave the impression there was collusion to ensure parliament would meet again 12 months away from the issue of writ for the next general elections.
The opposition described it as a calculated move.
Some government MPs, like Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu, was caught by surprise.
“I thought we agreed in government caucus this morning to adjourn to March,” she said, questioning if resuming in May would give them enough time to address the bill of the 22 reserved seats for women.
Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta said the period of adjournment was interesting that parliament would resume a year before the issue of writs for the general elections in 2012.
“They have done it better in that there will be no vote of no-confidence unless parliament is recalled.”
He claimed that parliament had failed to sit the required 63 days, which would be challenged in court.
“We might as well close down parliament. It is a mockery.
“The relationship between the legislature and the executive government is very strong,” Sir Mekere said.
The opposition also questioned the move by Nape to adjourn for the refurbishment of the house from the K20 million allocation from the supplementary budget.
Opposition member and Abau MP Sir Puka Temu questioned the scheme between the legislature and executive arm of government collaborating to adjourn parliament to avoid the move to oust the prime minister.
He said the funding for parliament maintenance needed to be scrutinised.
“Will public procurement be followed?” Sir Puka asked.
O’Neill last night said the adjournment of parliament to May next year was due to the declining state of parliament facilities including air-conditioning, elevators, toilets and security.
“That is the reason why the speaker adjourned parliament because it cannot function efficiently.”
He said money would go through the normal tendering and procurement processes.
“No money will be disbursed until procurement processes are complete.”
He said the commitment was made to release the money next week through a trust account under the care of parliament.