WHILE PRIME MINISTER PETER O’NEILL has claimed to have intervened to stop further destruction of traditional carvings in Parliament House, there is evidence that the ransacking continues at the behest of Speaker Theo Zurenuoc and with the active support of Community Development Minister Loujaya (Toni) Kouza.
Today, over the public entrance to Parliament House, once highlighted by a magnificent heritage carving, there rests an unadorned lintel (see photographs).
In private emails, many PNG Attitude readers have urged us to continue to publicise the issue and to do what we can to stop what has been termed "an assault on the people’s heritage".
“Many Papua New Guineans are shocked and disgusted by what has happened or may still be happening at the House of Parliament,” one reader wrote.
“Some concerned people went to Parliament yesterday and the outer lintel stretching across the front of the building has been removed and the destroyers were promising the removal of a large carved post inside, as well as some Trobriand carvings around the Speaker's chair.”
Another report said that a truck from the Museum had retrieved the chopped up lintel. “The lintel is made of very hard wood (kwila, garamut?), so removing it must have been a major undertaking.”
Museum staff claimed to our correspondents that a helicopter will be required to remove a huge carved pole inside Parliament House.
Meanwhile, Museum director, Dr Andrew Moutu, who has been active in gaining public support for the carnage to cease, said he asked the police arrest Speaker Zurenuoc but encountered various bureaucratic obstacles.
Mr O’Neill told the Post-Courier newspaper that he had walked down to the Grand Hall to see the four-tonne pole, which was the next artefact on the Speaker’s blacklist, and immediately asked Mr Zurenuoc to stop the work.
"It is unnecessary for us to remove items of our national heritage," Mr O’Neill said, adding that PNG has freedom of religion and Papua New Guineans rights to worship should be respected.
Mr O’Neill also denied a statement by Minister Loujaya Kouza that Cabinet signed off the plan to destroy the carvings.
"There is no truth in that. Cabinet didn’t give approval for anything to be removed from the National Parliament. The Minister has no authority to speak for Cabinet and there is no such authority," he said.
Speaking of her meeting with a Messianic group on a recent visit to Israel, Ms Kouza said, "The wealth of this nation we have seen but are circulating amongst the elites - the minorities. Our resources are spiritually hiding under the idol gods…. The Government declares that the God of Israel is the God of PNG."
Ms Kouza vowed to press ahead despite condemnation from ordinary Papua New Guineans, academics, the National Museum and Art Gallery and the Catholic Bishops Conference and will host the Israeli "prayer warriors" in Port Moresby in March next year to complete the "cleansing" exercise Mr Zurenuoc started.
"I thanked God for the Speaker Theodore Zurenuoc for the cleansing of the House," she said.