The Opposition has congratulated Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather on his decision to quit the Government over the controversial amendments to the Environment Act 2000 passed recently by Parliament.
Leader of the Opposition Sir Mekere Morauta said the bold decision taken by Mr Fairweather demonstrated that he was prepared to put aside his personal political interests to protect
Sir Mekere said Mr Fairweather’s decision to quit Government would be applauded by the vast majority of Papua New Guineans.
Last Wednesday (June 16 2010), Mr Fairweather, a member of the People’s National Congress Party, announced his resignation from the Government because he did not like the changes to the environment laws.
Mr Fairweather’s statement is telling: “It is a controversial law. Procedures were not followed in the passage of the bill. I do not want people 70 years down the line to say that their forefathers did not do the right thing by them. The changes were bulldozed through Parliament and it took away the rights of the people to seek justice in court. This is dictatorial and against every principle a democracy stands for,” Mr Fairweather said.
The amendments in effect mean that the Director of the Environment Department’s decision on Environment Permits and related issues is final and cannot be challenged or reviewed in any court or tribunal, even if companies cause environmental damage through negligence.
Commending Mr Fairweather’s stance, Sir Mekere called on all concerned leaders in the Government to seriously reconsider their support for the current leadership.
“We urge other leaders in Government who have genuine concern for the welfare and interest of PNG to withdraw their support and stand out to be counted true leaders.
“The passage of the Environment Amendment Bill is in the interest of the Ramu Nickel Mine only. It is another example of public policy making dictated by foreign interests. People of PNG will pay dearly for this,” the former prime minister stressed.
Sir Mekere said that the manner in which the Government had bulldozed these amendments through was similar to legislation on arrangements regarding the PNG LNG project that the Public Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare had bulldozed through Parliament.
He noted with grave concern what he described as a dangerous trend where ministers of state were being turned into marketing managers and facilitators of foreign multinational corporations and interests.
“As elected representatives of our people we are duty bound and morally obliged to do our utmost best to put our nation’s interest ahead of personal and vested interests.
“A band of National Alliance party members together with the Prime Minister have sold this country under the pretext of PNG’s economic gains. In PNG’s national interest this Government should not be allowed to continue in office.
“Just as the majority of people will support Mr Fairweather’s move, they will also agree with the comments published by Professor John Nonggorr last week. Prof Nonggorr gave very clear legal and ethical reasons why Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare should stand down. Members of Parliament should heed the views of the people and follow Hon Fairweather by withdrawing support for Somare and Company,” Sir Mekere said.