PAPUA New Guinea’s deputy prime minister Leo Dion has distanced the national government from Tuesday’s attempt by a group of Oro Province politicians to oust Governor Gary Juffa.
Mr Dion (pictured) condemned the attempted coup saying it would “set a very bad precedent and [was] a threat to the unity and security of the nation.”
He said that Mr Juffa was elected by the people of Oro to represent them for a full term and that he should be allowed to complete his full term as “their mandated and legitimate Governor.”
In parliament, Governor Juffa sits on the cross benches and is aligned with neither government nor opposition groups.
Mr Dion did not address the conspiracy underpinning the attempted removal from office of Mr Juffa nor the underlying tensions flowing from the Governor’s strong efforts to clean up corruption in his province
But he did warn the presidents of local level governments in the province, who make up the majority of the Provincial Assembly membership, not to abuse their offices “by taking sides or causing instability in the smooth operations and governance of the province.”
While not naming the two government MPs complicit in the ouster attempt, Minister Delilah Gore and Member for Ijivitari (and self-styled ‘Governor’), David Arore, Mr Dion reminded “all parties involved that the Office of the Provincial Governor in each Province is established by law and the Governors are duly elected by the people through the election process to represent them for the full term of Parliament, which is five years.
“I am condemning these actions,” he said.
Mr Dion said he would send a “fact finding team” to establish and resolve the issues and improve the long-term governance of the province.
Judging by Governor Juffa’s success so far in rooting out corruption and addressing the issue of illegal logging, the fact finding team may learn something about how to deal with endemic corruption in PNG.
What Governor Juffa requires more than anything else at the moment is the support of the national government.
Deputy prime minister Dion has made a promising start.
Now he needs to drag the errant MPs Arore and Gore back into line and launch investigations into Mr Arore’s seeming abuse of the constitution and allegations that Ms Gore has misused public money.