IN a nationally broadcast address as powerful as it was pointed, Papua New Guinea’s opposition leader Don Polye last night staked his claim for national leadership at only the second meeting of PNG’s press club in Port Moresby.
With just 21 members in the 111 seat parliament, Mr Polye has his work cut out in gleaning a win at June’s election but, as PNG election observers understand, the ability to form a government is won and lost more in the post-election bargaining and manoeuvring as it is at the polls themselves.
Commonly half the sitting members lose their seats at every national election and those that win are more often than not interested in the spoils of office rather than the responsibilities.
Mr Polye pulled no punches, attacking the O’Neill government for condoning corruption, wrecking the economy and underperforming on service delivery.
He also accused the government of undermining democracy in PNG through what he claimed to be a deliberate policy of undermining people’s freedoms in relation to land ownership and the right to protest.
“This is stealing your property and your future,” he said. “And we reject the use of heavily-armed police against citizens. We do not need stability through subjugation.”
Criticising Peter O’Neill for defying attempts to make him accountable for PNG’s pervasive corruption, Mr Polye said the provision of development funding directly to politicians gave them “an economic future only for themselves.”
He also committed himself to renew and strengthen the Leadership Code, Ombudsman Commission, Police Fraud Squad, Task Force Sweep and other instruments and agencies that would help create an honest nation.
“PNG is in a financial crisis,” he said. “The national parliament has no money to pay the bills. Even as the governor-general was dying, the electricity was cut off to Government House.”
Mr Polye also said too much infrastructure spending was going to Port Moresby – “this is not balanced development”,
Questioned by the media on how he would root out corruption, he said his starting point would be to prosecute people identified by previous commissions of inquiry and other mechanisms.
He said, in forming a coalition, he would not appoint any person who had been incriminated and not brought to justice.
Mr Polye said he would take immediate and tough action to restore PNG’s economic position in leading what would be a “cut and save” government.
He would scrap the current practice of raising successive commercial loans to prop up the country and engage the expertise of international institutions like the IMF and World Bank to develop a strategy for the nation’s economic recovery, which would focus heavily on agriculture as well as resource exploitation.
In response to a question, he said the Manus detention centre would definitely be shut down in accordance with the decisions of the PNG courts.
The PNG press club is a fine initiative of the National Broadcasting Commission. But while NBC, ABC, EMTV and Wantok journalists were present, conspicuous by their absence were reporters from the national dailies, The National and the Post-Courier.
That’s a local media issue that needs to be addressed.