Inside the PNG Parliament: Names, Signatures, and the Battle over VONC, Parliament Adjourns

In the most recent session of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Parliament, a heated debate ensued over the Vote of No Confidence (VONC) in the current government. The Speaker, Job Pomat, faced accusations of inconsistency and bias, particularly regarding the qualifications and the manner in which the Parliamentary Private Business Committee (PBC) was handling the VONC.

The opposition vociferously argued that the committee’s structure was flawed, as all members were from the government. They demanded a reformation of the committee to ensure an impartial and unbiased review of the VONC. The Speaker was urged to respect the spirit of the Supreme Court judgment (Polye v Zurenuoc [2016] PGSC 96), which permits bypassing the committee in matters of national importance, and not be obstructed by local issues on the motion of the VONC.

Disagreements also emerged over the identification of MPs and the validity of signatures on motions. The Speaker was accused of ridiculing the house and himself, and was urged to act in the best interest of the country. The session culminated with a call for a vote on whether the VONC should be put on the notice paper the following day. The result of this vote could have significant implications for the future of the PNG government.

The Speaker, Job Pomat, stated that he would approach the Supreme Court to validate the decision of not putting the VONC motion on the Notice Paper. He further pledged to resign if the decisions of the PBC were found to be incorrect by the Court.

The core issue was the accuracy of names and signatures on the motion. The Speaker stressed that the names of the six members of parliament who signed the motion must be correct for the sake of public record. However, the Speaker only provided four names. These members included the Honorable Peter O’Neill, Honorable Francesca Semoso, Honorable Maso Hewabi, and Honorable Robert Naguri.

The Leader of Government Business then announced that the Parliament would adjourn until Tuesday, 3rd September 2024, at 2 p.m. He also highlighted an upcoming significant event for the country’s Catholic population – the visit of the Pope on the 6th of September. As the country anticipates this historic visit, the controversy surrounding the VONC continues to brew, promising more intense debates in future sessions.

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