19 ministers missing, no one to hear grievances
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
THE whole front bench of government was empty with only 14 of the 33 ministers present during the parliament session last Friday, The National reports.
This has drawn criticisms from both within government backbench and the opposition that some of the arguments presented during grievance debate would not be taken seriously and a waste of time.
Abau MP Sir Puka Temu said it was a "sad day" for Papua New Guinea with the whole government front bench empty.
The empty front bench is usually filled by the prime minister, deputy prime minister, finance and treasury minister, justice minister and attorney-general and commerce and industry minister.
The only other key ministers present included leader of government business and National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, Foreign Affairs Minister Don Polye, Forest Minister Timothy Bonga and Fisheries Minister Ben Semri.
Sir Puka said there were 33 ministers of state and only a handful present to hear grievance from members.
"The whole front bench is empty.
"Our people deserve a hearing of the executive government.
"The people's house must be an active house.
"How can state ministers hear our grievance and put things into action?"
Sir Puka said there must be a select parliamentary committee that must sit down and address very important suggestions and ideas brought forward by members of parliament.
"How can we change the laws relating to the resources? We must have the select parliamentary committee go through the debate and if it means bringing in amendments to parliament, it must be done," Sir Puka said.
Lae MP Bart Philemon also hit out at the empty government bench, including physically making a head count of ministers on the floor of parliament.
"Fourteen ministers present out of 33. It is a shame to see the front bench empty."
Philemon said in the Australian federal parliament, the front bench was always full.
"What is the difference between Australia and Papua New Guinea? What a shame!"
Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru said it was disappointing that state ministers were not present to hear the MPs' grievances.
"The front bench disappointingly is not in parliament to hear the debate.
"It is the only opportunity for us MPs to debate issues and ministers to take note."
Agiru also called on each minister to bring to parliament their performance report during their terms as ministers and also challenged the provincial governors to do the same.