Thursday, June 27, 2013

PNG leader slams opposition's race attack'

By Eoin Blackwell, AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent

PAPUA New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says a racially motivated attack on him by the nation's opposition leader is disgraceful.
Mr O'Neill on Monday responded to a weekend attack by Belden Namah in which the opposition leader accused the prime minister of not being Melanesian after he signed an extradition treaty with Indonesia.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill
PNG's leader says a racially motivated attack on him by the nation's opposition is disgraceful. Source: AAP
PNG shares its only land border with the restive Indonesian province of West Papua, and many West Papuans have fled east to escape Indonesia's rule.
"I just find it absolutely disgraceful that someone who claims to be a 'leader' can resort to race-based abuse and name-calling without provocation or justification," Mr O'Neill said in a statement on Monday.
"His vicious and uncalled-for attack on me while trying to justify his newfound position on Indonesia and Papua is disappointing, but sadly, it is also not unexpected.
"Mr Namah's disgraceful behaviour is one reason why the opposition numbers have dropped from around 20 to five or six since he became opposition leader last August."
Mr O'Neill last week visited Jakarta with a large business and ministerial delegation to sign the extradition treaty, and a series of commercial and civil agreements.
Mr Namah directed his response to the bilateral talks at Mr O'Neill personally, and said the O'Neill government would use the extradition treaty to send West Papuans fleeing Jakarta's rule back to Indonesia.
"Peter O'Neill is not a Melanesian," Mr Namah said.
"If he is Melanesian, he will feel the pain and the suffering of the West Papuans."
Speaking directly to the attack, Mr O'Neill said he was proud of the contributions his father - an Australian-born magistrate, or "Kiap" in Tok Pisin - had made to PNG.
"I am a proud Papua New Guinean," he said.
"I am proud of the contribution my late father made to Papua New Guinea before and after Independence. I am proud of my heritage, as are my children."
He urged Mr Namah to put up policies, adding there was no place for race-based politics in PNG.
Mr O'Neill is already suing Mr Namah for defamation after the latter publicly accused the prime minister of personally benefiting from government contracts.
The political falling out between Mr O'Neill and Mr Namah came after the 2012 national election that saw Mr O'Neill become PM and Mr Namah head a rapidly diminishing opposition.
For a year leading up to the election, Mr Namah was Mr O'Neill's deputy prime minister.
Now Mr O'Neill commands a large majority in parliament - about 95 out of 111 seats, while Mr Namah has seen his numbers shrink from 12 to just seven.
The pair's relationship soured during the lead up to the election, with Mr Namah publicly declaring during the campaign he should be the nation's prime minister.
Mr O'Neill last month reportedly took a page out of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating's play-book, telling Mr Namah in parliament he wanted to "undo [him] slowly".

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