Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Angry scenes in Papua New Guinea parliament over no-confidence vote

Angry scenes erupted in Papua New Guinea's parliament today after the government avoided a motion of no-confidence by adjourning the session until November.

MPs hurled abuse at each other across the chamber and security officers had to restrain members of the public who voiced their frustration when the government won the adjournment vote on Wednesday.

Opposition leader and former prime minister Mekere Morauta said Prime Minister Michael Somare's government was running scared, so much so that they broke constitutional laws to avoid the no-confidence vote.

Mr Morauta told a news conference after the vote that parliament had only sat for 29 days and the adjournment meant they would miss the required 63 days sitting time for the year.

"Yesterday Somare said he had the numbers to block a vote of no-confidence, today he adjourned. The government is worried, it is fractured. He is afraid to face the music, the constitution, he will go down in history as someone who has threatened democracy," Mr Morauta said.

The opposition would go to PNG's Supreme Court and refer Mr Somare, Parliamentary Speaker Jeffery Nape and the leader of government business Paul Tiensten to the Ombudsman Commission for violating the constitution, he said.

Opposition member Julius Chan, also a former prime minister, said PNG was not in political limbo but "now in hell".

Western Province Governor Bob Danaya, who has sided with the opposition, said there was a big split within government based on principle. "They are destroying this country," he said.

Six other government backbench members listed a series of scandals and corruption as their reasons for swapping sides. "This has come from within the government, from us, we are dissatisfied and angry," MP Jamie Maxtone-Graham said.

Mr Somare on Tuesday said he had the government's full support and the numbers to defeat a no-confidence vote. But on Wednesday the government opted for a successful 56 to 32 vote to adjourn parliament until 10 November.

A government spokesman said the adjournment was to allow for "much needed refurbishments" to parliament house.


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