**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill at the launching of his Government Initiatives to revitalise the coffee industry in PNG. The event was held in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province which is the Coffee capital of PNG. March 3rd, 2014 ****
**** Government to subscribe for 149m OSL shares. March 3rd, 2014 ****
The Government has made a strategic move to keep its alliance with Oil Search Limited after the Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) refused to sell back OSL shares.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill announced last Friday that the Government and OSL have reached an agreement under which the Government will subscribe for 149.39 million shares in Oil Search Limited at A$8.20 per share.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said the agreement is subject to the execution of final financing documentation with international banker UBS, and the receipt of final State approvals, which are expected on or before March 6.Settlement of the subscription is expected to take place by mid-March."We note that Oil Search has announced the acquisition of a 22.835 percent gross interest in PRL-15, which contains the Elk-Antelope discovery, through the acquisition of the Pac LNG group of companies."The acquisition provides Oil Search with a strategic interest in the largest undeveloped gas resource in PNG, with significant exploration upside. The Government looks forward to working with Oil Search, its joint venture partners and other resource owners to develop all PNG hydrocarbon resources in the earliest practical timeframe," he said.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said the Government noted the March 2014 maturity of the exchangeable bonds (EB) issued in 2009 by the Independent Public Business Corporation of Papua New Guinea (IPBC) to IPIC.The funds raised from the IPIC issue enabled the Government to fund its share of the construction of the PNG LNG project, which is scheduled to begin commercial production this year.He said the IPBC had received a mandatory exchange notice from IPIC in relation to the IPIC exchangeale bond and accordingly, the exchange of the relevant Oil Search shares held by IPBC will occur as prescribed under the IPIC EB deed."We wanted to buy back the shares held by IPIC. That is not possible now. But what we have agreed to is a very good outcome for the Government and the people of PNG. We will maintain our alliance with a strategic partner, Oil Search, at a price far less than the exchange price of A$8.55."Oil Search is a 20/20 company and things can only get better from here."The Government looks forward to working alongside IPIC on the Oil Search share register and building our strong relationship. We view IPIC’s investment in Oil Search as a vote of confidence in the prospects for the PNG hydrocarbon industry. IPIC has a reputation for being a long-term investor in overseas energy and energy-related assets."
**** Law sector funds projects in Bougainville. March 3rd, 2014 ****
The Law and Justice Sector program in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is funding some tangible projects in the region.Acting chief executive officer of Law and Justice Ephraim Eminoni said projects that have been earmarked for implementation are building infrastructures in Buka, Arawa, Buin and Mabiri.A contract for these developments has been awarded by AusAID to Pacific Building Contractors (PDC), with work already starting on some of the building projects.The projects include a single-quarter eight-room men’s dormitory and 12-room women’s dormitory for the police training unit at Hutjena, and another dormitory for police to be constructed at Kokopau and Sohano Island.Apart from this, a four bedroom residential unit for the resident national court judge and a three bedroom house for the magisterial court registrar will also be built.A staff house for the Public Solicitor and police as well as two dormitories for police will be built in Arawa, while two dormitories for police will be constructed in Buin, together with two houses for the district court magistrates.Mr Eminoni, who is also the ABG special projects liaison officer, said a Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre for young offenders below the age of 18 years will also be built at Mabiri.This centre will boast a staff house, an abolition block and a classroom for the juveniles.A building for the Community Based Corrections will also be constructed in Arawa under this LJSP program.
March 4th 2014
**** CHIEF SECRETARY FINALIZES DETAILS OF MOU FOR ELECTORAL SUPPORT TO FIJI, March 4th, 2014 ****
Chief Secretary to Government, Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc, visited Fiji from 02 -05 March, 2014 and met with relevant Fijian authorities to discuss the specifics of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Papua New Guinea and Fiji relating to the K50 million electoral assistance pledged by Prime Minister Hon. Peter O'Neill during the State visit to PNG by Interim Prime Minister of Fiji, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on 16 April 2013.Sir Manasupe was accompanied by Mr. Andrew Trawen, PNG Electoral Commissioner, Ms Hera Kevau, Acting High Commissioner to Fiji, Mr Frank Aisi, Director International Relations Unit, Department of Prime Minister & NEC and Mr Cephas Kayo, Acting Director, Pacific, Australia & New Zealand Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs. The two day visit enabled the visiting delegation to meet with Minister responsible for Elections and Attorney General, Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, Permanent Secretary for Office of the Prime Minister, Lt. Col. Pio Tikoduadua, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Permanent Secretary for Finance, Permanent Secretary for Elections, Solicitor General and other respective authorities. The discussions enabled PNG and Fiji to reach understanding on areas of assistance and timelines for the remittance of the first tranche of K25 million.The discussions on the MOU focused on specific areas where the first tranche of K25 million will be disbursed and utilized to assist with delivering a free, fair and transparent democratic elections in Fiji in September this year. These areas include; supply of ballot papers, voter awareness, allowances for polling officials and others. There was also discussion on the deployment of a PNG Observer Team to monitor the elections. The funding for the electoral assistance it was agreed would be through the PNG Treasury and Finance Departments and the Fiji Finance Department. The electoral assistance would be disbursed in two tranches with the first tranche for direct election support as discussed above in 2014 and for the remaining K25 million to be delivered in 2015 for parliamentary reform processes. The Chief Secretary emphasised the need to work within timelines and provide details for the electoral assistance and the need for accountability to the PNG constituency. The MOU was finalised after the consultations and a date is expected to be confirmed soon for the signing of the said MOU. It was agreed for the signing of the MOU to be between Chief Secretary and the Permanent Secretary of the Fijian Prime Minister’s Office.
**** Manus talks every month, March 3rd, 2014 ****
Australia and Papua New Guinea will start a monthly joint ministerial forum to oversee the implementation of their regional resettlement arrangement regarding Manus.This follows a meeting in Port Moresby on Saturday between Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato, Attorney-General Kerenga Kua and Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison.They re-committed themselves to the agreement and the broader partnership necessary to effectively deliver on its good intentions.The monthly forum to begin next month will also involve Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop.It is expected to provide clear direction and oversight on the implementation of the agreement and provide a timely and accountable process to ensure that the arrangement is being converted into tangible and practical outcomes.The three ministers expressed their regret, sympathy and condolences on the death of Iranian citizen Reza Barati, 23, and injuries to other asylum seekers at the Manus refugee processing centre during violence on February 16 and 17.Pato said: “The monthly forum will create an impetus to highlight the issues and manage the outcomes.”Morrison said: “The boats are stopping and our partnership with PNG has been an important component in what we have been able to achieve to date. This monthly joint ministerial forum will aid us to keep this important arrangement on track and translate announcements into action, when it comes to the critical issues of processing claims and resettling refugees in PNG.”
**** Did everyone in Government know about Government Ministry changes, “Yes”, March 5th, 2014 ****
Over the past week since the Government re-shuffle of the cabinet ministers, there has been large speculation over the way in which this process was conducted.The Prime Minister has been accused of not discussing the changes with his party (People’s National Congress) or the other cabinet ministers. Speculation leading up to the re-shuffle was strong and there were various reasons, again speculation, to why the changes were made.In an interview conducted with the Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill, has cleared up many of the incorrect facts in the social media and other media channels that PNG is reading.“It never ceases to amaze me the stories that come out prior to anything being announced, and then once we announce it, the next round of lies and mistruths start. So lets once again state facts and give the people the real story. The re-shuffle was a requirement for our continued growth in this country. The people of PNG are watching our performance and they want results. I and the other cabinet ministers all want results and we are here to deliver. We need to at times, make changes, even if they are not the popular ones. I want the best team to achieve the maximum result. We have 3 ½ years left in our term to deliver on all of our goals and objectives. When you are already starting behind where we should be as a country, we have to push even harder. The rumors that I made these decisions on my own are from uniformed political people. They want you to believe that I am running this country single handedly. This is not the case. You need a team of dedicated people, skilled people, loyal people, people that are there to deliver. Yes you need a Leader, and that is me. I have a vision that is supported by the majority of the PNG Government and we are working hard. There was total consultation with all party members and the ministers about the changes being implemented for the cabinet re-shuffle. We are run a professional and ethical government that needs communication to be clear and managed at all times. ”So the rumors about a divided party, a party that is facing leadership challenge’s, a party that is loosing its way, are they true??“ Again lets be clear, all political parties are made up of different personalities, ministers that have objectives, ministers that have aspirations. The Peoples National Congress was brought together prior to the elections to include people with the same vision for this country. We know each other, we know what we are each wanting to achieve for the country, we are passionate about PNG. The rumors are false, and I am the Leader of the PNC and I am the Prime Minister of this country. I will be judged in the 2017 elections, and when people see the results and see through all the lies, stories, mistruths etc, I am sure this Government will be returned. The core of the PNC party is very strong with a very strong alliance and respect for each other. There is no leadership challenge, and as a party we are very pleased with our progress and achieves for PNG to date. But there is more to be done.” The Prime Minister is very clear on the party and direction for his new cabinet ministers. The Objectives are in place, and the challenge there for the Government to deliver. The Prime Minister took the time to speak with us out of his extremely busy schedule. For those of you not aware, the Prime Minister works 7 days a week and starts his day by 6.30am and mostly finishes around 11pm. For him, this is not just a job, but a passion to deliver. He is aware of the on-going issues across the country and he finished the interview with these parting words. “Being in politics in PNG is not easy. We have many challenges as this country continues to grow. We need more essential services, we need to basic services in the rural areas, we need more teachers, we need more police, we generally need more. However, we have a budget and we need to work with this and make sure that for every kina we spend, we get the maximum value for the people of PNG. I am working with the Ministers to look at new ways in increase revenue. How do we create more funds for the Government so we can spend more on services for the people. This is a challenge for all of my Government. This is why I need the best cabinet ministers in place delivering everyday. This is why I need to have a stable and committed party. I am very fortunate that I have both. We will deliver and we will do this by the next election.”
**** PNG, Japan ties stronger. March 5th, 2014 ****
The relationship between Papua New Guinea and Japan has become stronger due to the commissioning of an Honorary Consul in Japan. Nobuchika Ihara was commissioned as the first Honorary Consul to represent Papua New Guinea in Japan.Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato believes that Mr Ihara, who has a big heart for Papua New Guinea and who has visited the country more than 20 times, is the right person to bear the honour and challenge of being its first Honorary Consul."The Government of Papua New Guinea has every confidence in Mr Ihara that he will rise to the challenge of representing Papua New Guinea’s interests," Mr Pato said.He said this vital relationship has been manifested by the current exchange of visits to either country at the highest possible level and the increase in trade and investment making Japan one of PNG’s largest trading partners by the fall of this year, when it begins importing the single largest amount of liquefied natural gas."For Papua New Guinea, its relations with Japan are important and strategic especially in terms of its development interest."Mr Pato said they aim to reach out to the whole of Japan to seek out and secure the best in trade and investment and other opportunities for PNG.The government sought to apply an age-old system of representation through honorary consulates."In this way we would have our Japanese friends become honourary Papua New Guineans to assist, represent and avail facilities and information where Papua New Guinea’s limited resources including manpower cannot reach out to do so," Mr Pato said.Mr Ihara, while accepting the position, in the Kanto region of Japan, promised to execute his duty and responsibilities to the best of his abilities.He said he has a life time mission to export Japanese technology, engineering and consumer merchandise to Papua New Guinea. He said he is fully aware of the government’s priorities in health, education, infrastructure and reform."My goal is build a true independent country working in collaboration with the people and Government of Japan," Mr Ihara said. He believed the time has come for Papua New Guinea to fully enhance its potential.
**** Angau hospital chief sidelined. March 5th, 2014 ****
THE Government has sidelined the outspoken acting chief executive officer of Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae.Dr Polapoi Chalau has publicly announced that Angau Hospital will conti-nue to charge fees for basic health care services, which is directly against the national Government’s free basic health care policy.Dr Chalau last week came out in the media a day after Health Secretary Pascoe Kase announced that the free health care policy was effective as of February 24, stating that Angau will continue to charge fees because it would take time for paper work to be done and hospital processes to be aligned with the new policy.The National Executive Council, in a meeting, revoked the appointment of Dr Chalau as the acting chief executive officer.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill in a statement yesterday said Dr Jim Abrahams is the new acting chief executive officer for the Angau Memorial Hospital.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said the acting appointment was made after the Government’s decision to revoke the acting appointment of Dr Chalau. He said Dr Abrahams’ acting appointment came into effect as of February 17.He was previously appointed as the hospital’s administrator when Angau was put under a state of emergency. The Prime Minister said Dr Abrahams will be the acting CEO until a permanent appointment is made.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill: All MPs will get full district funds. March 6th, 2014 ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said yesterday that all Members of Parliament including Opposition MPs will receive their full District Services Improvement Program funds for 2013.The Prime Minister has visited many electorates during the year, and has been briefed on development projects undertaken in other electorates, including those held by MPs in the Opposition.He has directed that any monies outstanding be released to satisfy contractual obligations and other payments for delivery of service."I’m satisfied that development projects are being initiated in nearly all districts in the country as a result of this intervention (DSIP and PSIP and LLGIP) that our government has introduced."While it is my desire to see all districts, LLG’s and provinces receive their funds in a timely manner, there are practical constraints like cash flow management, and acquitting previously spent funds, that will cause a delay in the disbursement to some electorates and districts."A few individuals have sought to turn this into political point-scoring issues in the media. That is unfortunate, but understandable."The electorates held by MPs in the Opposition are part of our great nation. People from those electorates will not be treated differently to others."I am advised that K3 million is owed to each district that have not yet received their full 2013 allocation. Cash flow permitting, the Finance Department will this week release these monies to the districts concerned,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O'Neill: More to to be done for women. March 7th ****
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told a women’s forum in Port Moresby yesterday that there is more to do to advance women in Papua New Guinea.The Prime Minister said successive governments had done their fair share to try to advance the role and profile of women in PNG.A number of initiatives had been launched and resources allocated to empower women on education, public service, business and decision making, he said.He told participants that they were in the forum because obviously, there was more to be done.He said recognising the potential in our women, and the benefits to our community in promoting women, our government introduced legislations and made some key decisions to ensure there was progress.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said the Government passed the Family Protection Bill to give more legal protection to mothers at home."We amended the criminal code so any attack on our mothers and sisters because of sorcery related beliefs becomes a serious offence; we introduced tough legislations to combat human trafficking, so we protect our vulnerable young women."A lot more has to be done and my government stands ready to listen to you," he told the forum.He said he was aware that the forum would discuss key issues on empowering the next generation; how groups could be agents of change; enhancing educational opportunities; helping women live healthier lives; encourage men and youth to combat gender based violence; get more women into business and harness the power of technology to empower women.The Prime Minister said he hoped that the forum would develop strategies to guide those attending to promote gender equality and empower women.He further told women that the Government was committed to the advancement on the status of women in PNG by setting up and funding an office of development for women, which will be within the Department of Community Development.This office will be funded in the budget starting next year, so that it is fully resourced to promote the initiatives to advance the empowerment of women in PNG.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill is working quickly and firmly to protect the interests of the State and the people of Western Province ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill says the lengthy and detailed work by the Eminent Persons Group has failed to reach a resolution on the differences between the national Government and the PNG Sustainable Development Program on the structure and operations of the PNGSDP. As a result, the National Executive Council has authorised the Attorney General to engage the services of leading Singapore law firm, Wong and Partners, to represent the State in the legal action instigated in Singapore by the former PNGSDP board and management.“Wong and Partners has been instructed to commence proceedings to protect the interests of the State, and the people of the Western Province. This may include proceedings in Singapore to liquidate PNGSDP,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said. Over the weekend, Attorney General Kerenga Kua, Western Province Governor Ati Wabiro and the Prime Minister met with the appointed legal representatives in Singapore to issue formal instructions. They were accompanied by the State Solicitor and Mr Ian Molloy, QC. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said it was most unfortunate that the Eminent Persons Group, made up of Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Puka Temu, and Mr Bart Philemon, could not arrive at a resolution despite the time and dedication they gave to the task.“The NEC appointed them to undertake this important task because we wanted a resolution that would not involve costly and time consuming legal proceedings. “However their efforts have not been successful because of reluctance and negative attitude of Sir Mekere and PNGSDP,” said Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill. “In light of this development, the national Government has moved quickly and firmly to protect the interests of the State and the people of the Western Province.“The original decisions by the national Government with regard to PNGSDP, which has been challenged in Singapore, enjoy the overwhelming support of the national Parliament, the people of the Western Province, and I believe, the nation. The behaviour of the former chairman and management of PNGSDP is against the national interest above all and we have now moved decisively to uphold the national interest, and that of the people of the Fly River and the Western province.” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill thanked Sir Rabbie, himself a former prime minister, Sir Puka and Mr Philemon, a former finance minister, for their hard work and their dedication.
**** Changes in Government. March 11th, 2014 ****
Treasurer Don Polye and the Labour and Industrial Relations Minister Mark Maipakai have been sacked from cabinet.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill yesterday dropped the biggest political bombshell by dumping the leader of the second biggest coalition partner and The Party leader and Treasury Minister Don Polye and his Southern region deputy leader and Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations Mark Maipakai.The Prime Minister said the removal of Mr Polye, who is also chairman of the World/Bank/IMF board of Governors, came as result of him "causing instability in the Government" while the decommissioning of Mr Maipakai as Minister was done to "preserve the integrity and public confidence of the Government after he was arrested and charged by police" – a matter which is now before the National Court.The dumping of the two senior government ministers comes just two weeks after the sacking of United Resource Party (URP) leader William Duma and Higher Education Minister and The Party member David Arore. "Mr Polye’s conduct as Minister for Treasury and a senior partner in the Government has been ongoing concerns for the Government,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said. He occupies one of the key positions in the Government dealing directly with financial and economic management issues of the country and as such his conduct has a direct impact on the stability and confidence of the Government,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said."The sacking of Polye has been done in the best interest of the Government and the country and this does not however affect The Party. "The Party remains an integral member of this government."Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said in any Westminster system of government, all members including ministers are expected to work together cohesively to develop and implement Government policies."PNG is no different. By working as Government, public including international community confidence is achieved, which is a vital ingredient for our country’s development aspirations. This Government since coming into Office after the 2012 general election has introduced a lot of innovative policies, aimed at improving the quality for life of our people – and any lack of solidarity dissents amongst our coalition partners or individuals including ministers will defeat the stability, trust and confidence of our people and investors.” The Prime Minister said he was not going to risk economic opportunities available to PNG by allowing others to bring instability to the Government and its policies. "It wasn’t easy but for the good of our country, I have after consulting leaders in the government, decided to decommission Honorable Don Polye as Minister for Treasury."The Prime Minister has taken over the Treasury Ministry while his deputy Leo Dion, a senior The party member, will hold Labour and Industrial Relations until permanent appointments are made after consultations with coalition leaders.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill blames Mekere for breakdown in talks. March 12th, 2014 ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said yesterday that Sir Mekere Morauta is to blame for the breakdown in the talks between himself and the Eminent Persons Group (EPG).Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill was responding to a media statement by Sir Mekere who accused him of hiding the full story of the PNG Sustainable Development Program and Eminent Persons Group. "Every agreement we reached, he continuously insisted on changing the terms, including those proposed by the EPG,” Prime Minister O’Neill said."It is clear Sir Mekere represents foreign interests and he is not negotiating for the people of Western province."Governor Ati Wabiro, MPs from the Western province, and the national Government are mandated by the people. Sir Mekere is mandated by BHP."He (Sir Mekere) is trying to sell assets that do not belong to him. That can be viewed as potential fraud, and we will deal with it as such."I have had enough of his pride and ego and will not negotiate with him any further."His continuous insistence on change to the agreement shows he was never really keen on the outcome the people of Western province had wanted, and expected, on this issue."But we will see him in court. Sir Mekere initiated the court proceedings in Singapore and we will defend our people’s interest,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.
**** PRIME MINISTER HON. PETER O'NEILL - OIL SEARCH EQUITY BUY BEST DEAL FOR PNG ****
The recent decision by the Government to secure the country’s equity interest of 10.1 percent in Oil Search Limited is the best deal for Papua New Guinea.The Government has held close to 14.5 percent in Oil Search until recently where these shares were used as collateral / security to borrow $A 1.6 billion from IPIC to purchase the our equity in the PNG LNG project led by Exxon Mobil.Under the Agreement with IPIC, the shares were to be bought back by PNG Government on March 6, 2014 at the minimum price of $8.55 per share or higher price as per the valuations. To purchase these shares back from the IPIC, a bidding process for a new loan arrangement was independently conducted by the Central Bank together with Department of Treasury and the Independent Public Business Corporation. A number of leading international Banks tendered their bids, which were assessed independently by the Central Bank and recommended that UBS Bank had offered the best terms. With the finance secured, PNG government wrote to IPIC to buy back the shares at agreed price of $8.55 but this offer was not accepted and instead IPIC opted to keep the shares.In addition it asked PNG Government to pay additional $US 70m because they valued the oil search shares to be under $8.55. PNG Government refused to pay this additional amount stating that the shares were trading well above $8.80 at the Australian Stock Exchange. This dispute for the additional $US 70m is now before legal process. Given that PNG now had no shares in Oil Search, one of our largest investor and employer, the Government believed that this was bound to affect investor and business confidence in country. We are exercising the shares acquisition option knowing fully that our people want their Government to hold shares in Oil Search because of its strategic interest in our oil and gas fields.It is also known within the oil and gas industry that shares value in Oil Search is likely to double over the next few years. Our Government took a deliberate decision to secure our participation in Oil Search. PNG cannot continue to be a bystander while others continue to rip the benefits of our resources. We must have the full benefit at every opportunity.We understood that Oil Search was in discussion with Interoil, Total and other minority stakeholders to take up interest in the Elk/Antelope gas project in the Gulf. We also knew that they would go to the share market to raise the capital to invest in that project. The Government knowing very well that the finance from UBS for the buyback of the IPIC held shares were available, we entered into negotiations with Oil Search to purchase shares directly.After lengthy negotiations, the Government through independent advice from Bank of Papua New Guinea, Department of Treasury and Independent Public Business Corporation, our National Executive Council approved the purchase. The shares were bought at much discounted price of $A 8.20 per share compared to what we were prepared to buyback from IPIC at $8.55 or more per share. At current trading prices PNG has made a profit of close to $75m. The National Executive Council decision is final and it is based on independent official advice from all government officials and therefore cannot be undermined by a Prime Minister, any Minister or official.The concern raised by the Opposition Leader is again aimed at sensationalising this transaction. We know that all negotiations and discussions between our officials, Oil Search and the bankers UBS followed the highest degree of independence, transparency and accountability.These companies are listed on the Stock Exchange and are required by Law to report all details of transaction for public and their shareholders information.It is very certain that all leading financial experts and shareholders have gone through the arrangements in more detail than any other transaction. We are aware of our own obligations, that is that this transaction must comply with our Laws and therefore unlike any other financial transactions in the past, our Government will table all documents in the coming session of Parliament for public consumptions.We are also advised by our officials at the Central Bank and Treasury, the managers of our economy that this deal is being structured similar to the IPIC loan but on better terms. Our loan is not going to increase the overall debt of the country, in fact it will be reduced from around $ 1.6 billion of IPIC loan to $ 1.2 billion UBS on better terms including reduced interest of under 5 percent. Our officials are also keen on refinancing this loan within the next 24 months to concessional rate of around 2 percent so that our people and our country can increase benefits due to them. The argument that it increases our debt level is simply nonsense. The Government is keeping this transaction off the government accounts by vesting it with Petromin just like the IPIC loan with Kroton and Indepenedent Public Business Corporation.Finally, all leading financial experts who are familiar with this transaction and the IPIC loan say that PNG has achieved what many thought was impossible.This is a huge financial gain for PNG and most important of all is that PNG is fast becoming a major player in the oil and gas industry. Only a few politicians with their own agenda think otherwise.Hon Peter O’Neill, CMG MPPRIME MINISTER
**** The O’Neill-Dion Government is focused on delivering services to our people in the rural areas ****
The defence force will deploy explosive experts to break rocky mountains to make way for new roads in Nawaeb District in the Morobe Province.This is an initiative by Vice Minister for Education and Nawaeb MP Gisuwat Siniwin. Nawaeb District is a major producer of organic coffee and is a leading supplier of fresh vegetables to the markets of Lae and other commercial resource companies in Morobe Province.Mr Siniwin is keen on opening new economic passageways for his people so that they can grasp fresh opportunities that are opening in major cities like Port Moresby. "I believe the defence force can be a very useful and a strategic partner in nation building, particularly in assisting the development of rural districts," Mr Siniwin said. "They are an untapped resource of the government and I intend to use the Engineering Battalion, based at Igam Barracks, on a permanent basis so that they can support major infrastructure projects in Nawaeb."Mr Siniwin plans to use the defence force to assist local contractors to build roads, schools and health centres. Recent road works in the area were forced to cease operation due to very large boulders blocking machines from progressing into the villages that were to be connected by this road. For this reason, the defence force demolition team from Igam Barracks, led by Lieutenant Ivan Hiob, accompanied Mr Siniwin to inspect a site at Silabo Village in the Wain/Erap LLG area. The army explosive experts will be returning to the area to blast the boulders to make way for road works to continue in the area.Meanwhile, Mr Siniwin said that Nawaeb District will be undergoing a major makeover in the next couple of months.The district, with smallholder farming groups, will enter into partnership with a number of international investors and companies to build a fresh produce depot, a coffee depot, and a coffee miller and agriculture extension training school at Erap LLG."The O’Neill-Dion Government is focused on delivering services to our people in the rural areas," Mr Siniwin said. "Nawaeb is committed to leading the way so that much needed development and prosperity can be brought to our people."
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill - backing airport development ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill is fully supporting the development of Hayfield Airport in Maprik, East Sepik.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill made that known to the people of Maprik at the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.He said he would support Maprik MP John Simon to see the project get off the ground.He told more than 3,000 people from all over Central Sepik that the airport was one of the important infrastructures under the transport sector.“I want to commend your member John Simon for initiating this impact project as it will help the entire population in this part of Central Sepik,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.He said health and education were important programmes in the government’s basic service delivery.“There is no more time for politics but there is time for work as our people in the remotest part of this district needs basic government services,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.K5 million was allocated for the airport project and the money came from the District Services Improvement Programme.MPs Richard Maru, Salio Waipo and Gawi Joseph contributed K1 million from their budgets and Sir Michael promised to give his share.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill - K9 million for rural hospital ****
The Government will provide K9 million under its health infrastructure programme for the redevelopment of the Maprik Rural Hospital in East Sepik. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill revealed that during his visit to Maprik where he launched three major projects last week. One of the projects is the redevelopment of the Maprik Rural Hospital.The K9 million will complement the other K9 million from the Maprik district and provincial governments.Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said health was one of the basic but important service the government was focusing on.He said his government’s vision was to see basic health services reaching the remotest parts of the country.“This government in which your good MP John Simon is part of wants to bring better health and education services to the people,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill told the gathering at Maprik Hospital. The redevelopment of the hospital is in its first stage and will include the tendering of the project and construction.
**** K5 m FOR SOUTH SIMBU ROAD ****
The National Government released K5 million for rehabilitation work on the deteriorating Warasua/Kilau trunk road in the South Simbu area last week under its Public Investment Program. Karimui/Nomane's District Works Unit was given the responsibility of fixing the 20km stretch. This is seen as the first phase of the 70km Warasua/ Kiariwaisime road maintenance project. An additional K5 million will be made available after the successful completion of phase one.Phase two will see the 50km stretch between Kilau/Kiariwaisime upgraged, according to the local MP Mogerema Wii. The funding followed a recent visit to the electorate by National Planning Minister Charles Abel. Meanwhile, work on the 10km Warasua/Sigima road began last week. Chimbu's highly-esteemed road construction company, Kaia Works was engaged for the task. The Joint District Planning & Budget Priority Committee has allocated K1 million for this project.
**** THE ARGUMENT THAT THE LOAN INCREASES OUR DEBT LEVEL IS NONSENSE ****
The National Executive Council’s decision on the US$1.2 billion (about K3 billion) UBS Bank loan is final and is based on independent advice, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says.He was responding to criticisms by Opposition leader Belden Namah on the Government’s decision to borrow the massive loan to buy back 10.1% of Oil Search Ltd.“The concern raised by the opposition leader is again aimed at sensationalising this transaction,” he said in a statement on Friday.“We know that all negotiations and discussions between our officials, Oil Search and the bankers UBS followed the highest degree of independence, transparency and accountability.”O’Neill said these companies are listed on the stock exchange and are required by law to report all details of transaction for public and their shareholders information. “It is very certain that all leading financial experts and shareholders have gone through the arrangements in more detail than any other transaction,” he said.“We are aware of our own obligations, that is that this transaction must comply with our laws and therefore unlike any other financial transactions in the past, our Government will table all documents in the coming session of Parliament for public consumptions.“We are advised by our officials at the Central Bank and Treasury, the managers of our economy that this deal is being structured similar to the IPIC loan but on better terms.“Our loan is not going to increase the overall debt of the country, in fact it will be reduced from around US$1.6b of IPIC loan to US$1.2b UBS on better terms including reduced interest of under 5%. “Our officials are keen on refinancing this loan within the next 24 months to concessional rate of around 2% so that our people and our country can increase benefits due to them.“The argument that it increases our debt level is simply nonsense. “The Government is keeping this transaction off the government accounts by vesting it with Petromin just like the IPIC loan with Kroton and Independent Public Business Corporation. “Finally, all leading financial experts who are familiar with this transaction and the IPIC loan says that PNG has achieved what many thought was impossible.“This is a huge financial gain for PNG and most important of all is that PNG is fast becoming a major player in the oil and gas industry.“Only a few politicians with their own agenda think otherwise.”
**** PNC caucus meets, backs PM’s decision ****
The 49 parliamentary members of the leading People’s National Congress Party have thrown their support behind party leader and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on his recent decision to sack two coalition party leaders.The PNC party caucus held its meeting in Port Moresby on Sunday afternoon which was attended by all Parliamentary wing members, most of whom travelled from their respective electorates.PNC Party members are pushing to get the vacant Treasury Ministry but the Prime Minister wanted to consult the Triumph Heritage Party and United Resource Party before making a decision. The Prime Minister assured the members that he would make an announcement this week.It is understood that the PNC is pushing for the Treasury Ministry and by getting that portfolio would mean that the ruling coalition leader will be keeping key economic ministries of Finance, National Planning, and key sector portfolios of Works, Petroleum and Energy, Health, Police, Education, and Commerce and Industry.The Treasury and Labour and Industrial ministries are vacant after the sacking of THE Party leader Don Polye and his deputy for Southern region and Kikori MP Mark Maipakai. URP leader and Hagen MP William Duma were sacked in an earlier cabinet reshuffle.The Prime Minister said the key coalition leaders were sacked because they were causing instability in government.Political observers said the Prime Minister, who is from Ialibu-Pangia in Southern Highlands Province, has made some sort of political history by sacking two respected highlands party leaders.The meeting on Sunday was attended by ministers including James Marape, Michael Malabag, Nixon Duban, Charles Abel, Richard Maru, Francis Awesa, Paul Ezekiel, Boka Kondra, Steven Davies, William Powi, Ereman ToBaining Jr, Aide Ganasi, and parliamentary backbenchers.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O'Neill stands his ground ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill has accused Opposition leader Belden Namah of being a self-appointed “financial expert”.He said this in response to Namah releasing a letter from State Solicitor Daniel Rolpagarea who advised the State that Parliament should approve the Government US$1.225 billion (about K3 billion) loan to fund its 10.1% stake in Oil Search.In a letter to acting Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele dated March 5, Ropalgarea said it was a requirement under the Constitution that Parliament must approve such “bridge-and-collar” loans.O’Neill told reporters last Friday: “I know the Opposition leader’s issue about the advice from the State Solicitor.“That was an earlier advice given to Treasury. There was an advice, which was later given to Cabinet which cleared the transaction.“So there’s a later advice from the State Solicitor saying that the transaction was in order for Cabinet to approve it.“What we have seen, of course, is a few leaders taking it upon themselves to become financial experts and try to undermine Cabinet decisions, undermine the integrity and interest of PNG citizens.”O’Neill said he was elected by the people to protect their interests and would not be influenced by Namah.“They gave me that mandate in 2012,” he said.“I know that Namah has been calling for my resignation every time he has a press conference.“Tell him to be patient, tell him to give us his policies. “We know he says that we’re stealing his policies.“Not long ago, he said he went on a three-month overseas tour because he was writing up his policies.“Now he can’t produce one so he’s giving all kinds of excuses.”
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill - My Government committed to free education ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill today reiterated his government’s commitment to its free education policy. “We are committed to this policy, and we will entrench it because that is what our people want,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said in a statement. “When we introduced this policy two years ago, we were aware that we would encounter problems like overcrowding in classrooms, lack of teachers’ houses, shortage of textbook and other teaching materials. “As a responsible government, we are addressing these challenges despite the resource envelope being small,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said in response to a media statement by Opposition Leader Belden Namah on overcrowding in schools. “I’m pleased that as a result of this free education policy, enrollment of school-aged children has risen dramatically from 53% four years ago to 78%. “If you ask me, I’d rather a school-aged child be in a classroom learning, than being out on the street somewhere doing no good. “I’m aware that a number of teachers and school administrators have gone to the media to express frustrations about overcrowding in classrooms and lack of housing. “That is understandable. But I urge you all to be patient. I want to assure you all that the government is doing all it can to address all these issues.” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said a portion of the education budget has been allocated to supply all schools in the country with the necessary textbooks and teaching materials. “I would expect the Education Department to be rolling that out now,” he said.The Prime Minister supported Ministers James Marape (Finance) and Nick Kuman (Education) call that at least 20% of each MP’s DSIP and PSIP be allocated to building classrooms, teachers’ houses and other facilities in schools in all the districts. “If each Member supports the national government and allocate a good portion of their DSIP to education, over five years we will achieve a lot for our schools.” He said the government will ensure teacher training colleges in the country are upgraded so more teachers are trained to address teacher shortage in schools. The Prime Minister also supported the investigation by the Parliamentary Referral Committee on Education into issues of outstanding leave fares, wrong postings, housing and allowance raised by teachers. “Many of these issues have remained unattended for years due to neglect. We are looking into them now and I fully support the work of this committee,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.
**** PRIME MINISTER HON. PETER O’NEILL ANNOUNCES NEW MINISTERS IN LINE WITH ACCORD ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill today announced further changes to the Cabinet. The Prime Minister appointed Hon. Patrick Pruaitch as Minister for Treasury, Hon. Douglas Tomuriesa as Minister for Forest and Climate Change, and Hon. Benjamin Poponawa as Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations.“When I decommissioned two Ministers last week, I said there would be further changes to the Cabinet.“In line with the Alotau Accord, I consulted with THE Party our coalition partner, and invited them to nominate their candidates for consideration.“As a result of that consultation process, Kiriwina-Goodenough MP Tomuriesa and Tambul-Nebilyer MP Poponawa are now members of the Cabinet. “Mr Pruaitch, the leader of National Alliance Party, now takes up the senior portfolio of Treasury.“Pruaitch is a senior politician and his past stewardship of this important portfolio will be useful as our economy enters the next phase of its growth. “By virtue of his position as Treasurer, Pruaitch will also assume the role of Chairman of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Group.“THE party and The National Alliance party have assured me of their commitment to stability, and I commend them for that. “Tomuriesa and Poponawa are intelligent young leaders who are highly motivated and I have no doubt they will be contributing meaningfully in many ways to Cabinet and the country.“I want to thank former Ministers Hon Don Polye, Hon Mark Maipakai and Hon. William Duma for their contributions in Cabinet,” the Prime Minister said.He had lunch with former Prime Ministers Sir Michael Somare (Governor ESP), Sir Julius Chan (Governor NIP), and Paias Wingti (Governor WHP), who accompanied him to Government House for the swearing-in of the new ministers. The Prime Minister said he consulted widely with the former Prime Ministers and leaders of other coalition parties in government before making the cabinet changes.
**** Australian PM to arrive in POM tonight, March 20th, 2014 ****
Australian Prime Minister Hon. Tony Abbott arrives in Port Moresby tonight. This is his first Pacific tour and PNG is the first country he has visited since he was elected. Prime Minister Hon. Tony Abbott arrives at 7pm tonight at the invitation of Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill. He will visit schools, Bomana Cemetery, the PNG LNG site at Motukea, and BBQ with Australians in Port Moresby. He will meet Prime Minister Hon. O’Neill and Opposition Leader Belden Namah before he departs on Sunday. “Papua New Guinea is Australia’s nearest neighbour. We share historical links, democratic values and an interest in promoting a secure and prosperous region,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in his statement. “Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea is strong and wide-ranging. We co-operate closely on business, trade, aid, security and defence issues. Importantly, Papua New Guinea is a vital partner in our determination to tackle people smuggling and stop the boats. “As part of my visit, I will be accompanied by a senior Australian business delegation. Papua New Guinea is already an important commercial partner for Australia, with two-way trade between our two countries valued at $A5.7 billion in 2012-13. Deepening our economic ties will be a key focus of my visit. “I will join Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill for a one-on-one meeting before participating in a meeting with Papua New Guinea’s Cabinet. “During the visit, I will open Australian aid-funded facilities at a Port Moresby school, visit an Australian aid-funded vocational training programme at Port Moresby City Mission, meet with AFP officers working alongside the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and lay a wreath at Bomana War Cemetery.”
***TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTERS DISCUSSIONS TODAY ***THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MP AND THE HON. PETER O'NEILLJOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE HON. PETER O’NEILL CMG MP, PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA PRIME MINISTER HON. PETER O’NEILL:
Thank you members of the press and ladies and gentlemen.Firstly, I’d like to thank the Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott who has turned up here today with his delegation for our bilateral talks this morning. During our bilateral discussions, that underpin the relationship between our two countries, the discussions were frank and very much relevant to many of the issues before us and I want to assure the people of Papua New Guinea and of course our friends in Australia that these discussions have been very fruitful, constructive and pave the way forward for our relationship between our two countries.In doing so we discussed the issues about our detention processing centre in Manus where we have continued to work together, making sure that we process the refugees who sit in refugee status in a timely and orderly manner. Of course we regret the incidents of late, but I think the inquiries that are now continuing will take their own course and we look forward to welcoming the outcomes of those inquiries.Papua New Guinea, we are committed to staying the course. We have agreed to participate in this programme that was signed between our two former Prime Ministers – Prime Minister John Howard and Prime Minister Sir Michael Thomas Somare. It is those agreements that paved the way for the establishment of the asylum processing centre in Manus - the refugee processing centre in Manus - and we continue to respect that and we will continue to commit to it.We will, of course, process those who have now been interviewed for processing and we will be dealing with them as quickly as possible in the crossover in the next few weeks and months. I want to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible and I know many of you do as well.The second issue about today’s meetings, I want to thank the Australian Prime Minster for the economic cooperation treaty that we signed today, paving the way for increasing our trade and investment relationship between the two countries. That agreement is now going to be the cornerstone of the relationship in business that we are trying to promote between the two countries. Australia invests close to $20 billion Australian in PNG and the trade between the two countries is now reaching close to $8 billion Australian dollars and that is a significant investment for our economy in Papua New Guinea. I am certain that the Australian businesses that do business here, it is also a significant part of their business in Papua New Guinea.We appreciate the realignment of the trade programmes, the aid programmes that the Australian Government has in Papua New Guinea. The alignment is that we are now working more closely with the priorities of our government and the priorities that we have set in our national budget.So, all in all, I want to thank the Australian Government for their understanding in making sure that we develop sustainable programmes that are going to improve the quality of life and education and health for our people in Papua New Guinea. And that the Australian taxpayer gets the value for the assistance that they kindly provide to Papua New Guinea.So, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Australian Prime Minister for taking time to spend at least four days visiting Papua New Guinea. This is not his first visit to Papua New Guinea, this is his third visit I understand, and third of many more visits to come.So, Prime Minister, please?
PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:
Well, thank you so much Prime Minister O’Neill. Peter, it has been terrific to be with you this morning. These have been close, constructive, candid and collegial talks that we’ve had – both you and me and our wider parties and officials.Look, this is a very close relationship. Australia and Papua New Guinea are more than friends – we are family. And it has been in that family spirit that the discussions have been conducted this morning. There will long be a very strong government to government relationship between Australia and PNG but increasingly I would like the focus of the relationship at the government to government level to be trade as least as much as aid. That is why I was so pleased to have such a large and powerful business delegation with me here today. It isn’t just a business delegation. It also included David Smith of the national rugby league – because rugby league is a pretty important subject up here in PNG. In fact PNG is the one country on earth where rugby league is the overwhelming national sporting obsession. So, it was good to have David Smith and Petro Civoniceva here with us this morning.While the focus of this visit is on trade as much as aid, obviously there are areas where our two governments are continuing to work very closely together. Henceforth, there will be annual Prime Ministerial summits between Australia and PNG. Australia is looking forward to working very closely with PNG as PNG moves towards hosting the APEC summit in 2018. This will be an important coming of age for PNG and this will be by far the biggest international gathering ever hosted in PNG and it will demonstrate that PNG is not only a very big player in the Pacific, but it is increasingly a player in the wider world. I think it’s to the credit of PNG that this will be happening and Australia will be doing what it can to support. As well, we’re working to together to try to ensure that the Australian police presence, which has been here in PNG in some numbers for the last few months, continues to grow in the months to come. It’s impossible to have a prosperous society unless you first have a peaceful one and Australian police are playing a key role in Port Moresby and at least one other centre to make sure that’s reality. And then of course Manus where we are working together to ensure that the centre runs well and processing is expedited. I was extremely gratified to have from Peter this morning his assurance that the people and Government of PNG are committed to staying the course and I’m very grateful that the regulatory process is in train so that the settlement process can begin by May/June.Now I fully appreciate that this whole resettlement issue is a difficult one for PNG. I absolutely accept that. But I am grateful for PNG’s assurance that the course will be stayed because a very important element in stopping the boats is rigorous offshore processing and the certainty that people who come to Australia by boat will never ultimately be settled there. I really value the mateship that Peter O’Neill has shown to Australia on this, I really value the friendship that the people of PNG have shown to Australia on this. I’m grateful for the hand of friendship that Peter extended to my predecessor Kevin Rudd on this subject and I’m pleased that the hand of friendship has been equally extended to me on this very important subject.So it has been a good visit as Peter pointed out this is my first official visit to PNG, but it’s certainly not my first visit to this extraordinary country. I spent about three weeks here in 1980 in the highlands on the north coast walking the Kokoda Track, then in 1988 I came again in those days as a journalist and amongst other things walked the northern half of the Kokoda Track and it’s great to be back again in a different capacity. So thank you so much, Peter.
PRIME MINISTER O’NEILL:We’ll take a few questions and then we’ll adjourn for lunch.
QUESTION:Thank you Prime Minister, I have a question for both Prime Ministers on Manus and on processing. Firstly, Prime Minister O’Neill, can you talk about what you need to do to begin resettlement of those who you determine to be refugees? What’s stopping that process from beginning? And Prime Minister Abbott, what is it that Australia can do to assist in order to help with some of that resettlement in Papua New Guinea?
PRIME MINISTER O’NEILL:
As you know, Papua New Guinea is a signatory to the Refugee Conventions under the United Nations and we are obligated to assist where we can. And as a result of this exercise of the Manus processing centre, we have never had this issue about resettlement programmes in the past. What we are working on now is organising a structure in which we can conduct the resettlement exercise and our officials are working on that at present. It will go to Parliament in May and then we will proceed from there onwards. But this does not mean that the interviews have stopped. The interview and the processing of the refugee people at Manus is now taking place as we speak and then we’ll continue and those who are proven to be not genuine refugees will be moved on as quickly as possible. Those who are wanting to be resettled will be resettled under our legislative structure.
QUESTION:Will all of those recognised as refugees be resettled in Papua New Guinea?
PRIME MINISTER O’NEILL: Not all but we will take some and we’ll take as much as we can, but as we have stated at the initial stage when we agreed to this, we will also want all the other countries within the region, not only Papua New Guinea but others in the Pacific also. We will try and extend their participation; many of them are signatories to that same UN Convention, so we expect everybody to carry the same burden as we do. So that is how we are going to approach it.
QUESTION:Can I ask Prime Minister Abbott, do you have any undertakings from other countries that they will take refugees who are recognised from Manus Island?
PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT: We certainly very much value the cooperation and the help that PNG has extended to us and I’m extremely grateful for PNG’s renewed commitment today to resettlement. I accept that depending upon how many of those at Manus are found to be refugees I accept that it might be hard for PNG to take all of them, but we’re grateful for the fact that some of them will be here in PNG and we’re continuing to work with other countries in our region to ensure that people don’t come to Australia if they arrive illegally by boat. This is the bottom line: if you arrive illegally by boat in Australia you will never permanently settle in Australia because as long as there is this prospect of permanent settlement in Australia there is the risk that illegal boats will keep coming.Now I know we’ve just had three months without a boat and that’s great and that’s a tribute to the good work that Scott Morrison and the whole Operation Sovereign Borders team have done, but we need to absolutely establish once and for all that the way to Australia illegally by boat has forever been shut and so the resettlement of people in these camps in countries other than Australia is very, very important.
QUESTION:Prime Minister Abbott, just back to David’s question, what can Australia do to help PNG in that process? Do we need to be offering more money? And Prime Minister O’Neill, where in PNG would you envisage people would be resettled? Would you put restrictions on who might qualify? And what legal changes do you need to make – you mentioned them before –to make this possible?
PRIME MINISTER O’NEILL:
Firstly, the issue about resettlement, there are already some communities in the country who have already offered to participate in this programme. Now, it is pretty hard to speculate on that when we don’t precisely know the actual numbers of the people that we are talking about. We expect it to be less because people are expected to go home and many of them now that have been processed, a good majority of them are economic refugees, they are not genuine refugees, so as such they will be sent back to their country of origin. But let us not forget when we are having this debate why this policy was initially agreed to by the PNG government. Mainly it was to save the lives of many of the innocent and hundreds and thousands of people who lost their lives at sea when they were trying to make this journey to Australia.So, now that policy is working. People must know that as a result of this particular action that we have taken, lives are being saved. Now I think we need to work together in making sure that we resettle these people as quickly as possible. Trying to get a high ground on many of the moral issues that have been debated, that is appreciated, but I think we deal with the realities and that is why the Papua New Guinean government and our people are willing to participate.
QUESTION:And the legal changes, Sir [inaudible]?
PRIME MINISTER O’NEILL:The legal questions as I said, our officials are working to rid them. As soon as they are complete we will announce it to the Parliament there and then we will announce it to the rest of the world. But again, let me stress this very carefully, that this is not something we do every day, so there are no precedents in which we are following. We need to go through it to set up a legislative framework that will work within our own Constitution so that people are resettled in an orderly manner.
QUESTION:Sorry, Mr Abbott’s just going to answer my question. Sorry, thanks.
PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:
Well, what we’re looking to establish is swift processing, swift repatriation for those found not to be refugees and swift resettlement for those that are found to be refugees and where Australia can best assist is ensuring that people who are found not to be refugees are swiftly repatriated to their home country.
Prime Minister, I’d just like your comment on the [inaudible] visas into Australia. Have you had any discussion about this today?
PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT:Look, Prime Minister O’Neill and I have discussed this now on quite a number of occasions and I absolutely accept the desire of the PNG government and people to have swift and easy and appropriate access to Australia – I absolutely accept that. We are working towards better processes; we’ve already got the ability of PNG citizens to apply for visas online, we’ve already got fast-track entry at Brisbane and Cairns airport. What we’re now going to work on is trying to ensure that the PNG system and the Australian system can interoperate as it were, so we can have the level of information sharing that exists between Australia and New Zealand and which facilitates what is effectively visas on arrival for people from New Zealand.
Prime Minister, what’s the latest on the search for the plane outside of Perth and also did you jump the gun yesterday by talking about it in Parliament?
PRIME MINISTER ABBOTT: Shortly before Question Time yesterday we received credible evidence that there was debris in the Southern Indian Ocean, very close to the southern search corridor for ill-fated Flight MH370 and shortly after receiving that credible evidence, as you’d expect, I communicated it to Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia.Since then, we’ve been throwing everything we’ve got at that area to try to learn more about what this debris might be. Now, it could just be a container that’s fallen off a ship. We just don’t know. But we owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones of the almost 240 people on Flight MH370 to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle. We owe it to them to do everything we can to resolve this and because of the understandable state of anxiety and apprehension that they’re in we also owe it to them to give them information as soon as it’s to hand and I think I was doing that yesterday in the Parliament.Now to let you know where things are at today, as I understand it, we’ve got five aircraft that will be searching the area. What we are looking for today is a visual on what was picked up by satellite imagery a little while ago and as soon as we have additional information we will make it available.I should also let you know that last night, shortly after arriving here in PNG, I spoke by phone to President Xi of China because the vast majority of the people on that Malaysian aircraft were Chinese nationals. As you can understand, he is devastated, as are so many people in China, as is Prime Minister Najib by all of this. This has been a gut wrenching business for so many people, not least those who are charged with the responsibility of keeping their citizens safe.So, Australia will do its duty. As I said, we’ve got five aircraft in or close to the search area today – three of them are Royal Australian Air Force Orions. We have an Australian Naval ship which is steaming as fast as it can to the area. It is an extremely remote part of the Southern Indian Ocean; it’s about 3,000 kilometres south-west of Perth. It’s about the most inaccessible spot you could imagine on the face of the earth, but if there is anything down there, we will find it. We owe it to the families of those people to do no less.
**** PRIME MINISTER HON. PETER O'NEILL MEETS EXIM BANK VICE PRESIDENT ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill last week met with the Vice President of the China Export/Import (EXIM) Bank, Yuan Xingyong, to discuss issues relating to the EXIM Bank’s ongoing development assistance and concessional loans, towards Papua New Guinea.During the meeting, Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill expressed confidence in the continued support from the EXIM Bank for infrastructure projects such as roads, airports, among others. “As you have noticed on your way from the airport, there are a lot of road works and infrastructure developments currently in progress. My Government is confident that we are on the right track and on time with our projects,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.He said the PNG Government looks forward to working closely with the China EXIM Bank and is grateful for their ongoing assistance. The Vice President then reaffirmed the EXIM Bank’s continued support and sought Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill’s assistance towards ensuring that the loan agreement for the National Capital District Roads Project was concluded before the Chinese delegation departed PNG.
**** SPEECH BY PRIME MINISTER HON PETER O’NEILL, CMG MP ON THE OCCASION FOR THE LAUNCHING OF VILLAGE COURT OFFICIAL PAYROLL SYSTEM ****
Today is an important day for our Government but for officials of Village Courts throughout Papua New Guinea. Today we celebrate a historical milestone , one whereby our government formally rewards and recognises our village court officials across the nation for their tireless work to bring about justice and to maintain law and order at our community levels.From Independence to the today – paid or unpaid depending on individual provincial circumstances -- village court officials continued to provide their services diligently towards nation building in the law and justice sector at the community level.From today onwards they will be paid an allowance - not a salary - as reward and recognition for their voluntary service in serving their respective communities as Village Court officials. Their allowance will increase through the new policy introduced by the Government. I am proud to announce today that our government has put in place a dedicated payroll system for Village Court Officials. This system is based on the ALESCO system, which has become the standard system across the whole of government.Through this system allowances of village court officials will be paid directly to their bank account. They will no longer have to travel miles to provincial and district centres to collect their allowances as they have been doing in the past. I would like to thank the Departments of Justice and the Attorney General, Finance, Personnel Management and Treasury, as well as the Provinces, NCD and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, for their effort and dedication to achieving this important milestone. Of course there will be initial setbacks and difficulties as we begin implementing the system but you can be rest assured that our government is committed to meeting and resolving them as they arise. Our government looks our provincial and local level governments to actively play their responsibilities for the administration of Village Courts and the management of Village Court officials. The implementation of the Village Courts payroll system will be phased. At the initial stage, seven Village Court officials from each village court area will be entered onto the payroll this year with the remaining 3 or 4 officials next year. There are currently 1,600 Village Courts with 17,000 officials and by the time it is completed - it will become one of the largest single payrolls in the country.I understand the selection of the initial seven officials has been competed which will include NCD and Autonomous Region of Bougainville. This will include Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Village Court Clerk, Magistrates and Peace Officers. The selection is also gender sensitive, whereby at least one of the seven officials will be female. Officials in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will receive allowance through the new payroll system by June this year.While this is being put in place, every province will still receive their allowances through the National Government Goods and Services grant released to provincial and local level Governments as Village Court Allowances Grant. These grants will be continued in 2014 along with Village Courts Function Grants, which stand at K8.2 million. This will be more than sufficient to also to cater for Village Court Officials and Land Mediators. It is up to the Provinces to determine how and at what rate they will make the payments. Our government is determined to ensure that no official is left out of what they are rightfully entitled to. Our government is also reviewing the allowances paid to another special group of people who dedicate their service to the country. These are Land Mediators, appointed under the Land Disputes Settlement Act, who play a pivotal role in resolving disputes over land ownership and use of customary land. They also deserve an increase in their allowance, and when Government does make the decision, they too will be included in a centralised payroll. Having made those brief remarks, it is now my pleasant duty to hereby officially launch the Village Courts Payroll.
**** PM MEETS WITH GENERAL ELECTRIC PRESIDENT. March 24th, 2014 ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill today (25/03/14) met with the President and Chief Executive Officer of the General Electric Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, Steve Sargent, at his Parliament office.General Electric is an electric company which specializes in the fields of power, water, healthcare, oil & gas, energy management, lighting appliances and transportation, among others. In PNG, GE has extensive expertise in bringing healthcare technology – from the basic to complex in remote parts of the world and is now supporting the PNG LNG Project.Upon welcoming Mr Sargent and his delegation to PNG, Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said his government’s GE’s contribution to the PNG economy.He said that the government recognizes GE's association with the country dating back 60 years, and most recently its support towards the PNG LNG project.“GE has been in PNG since 1952 and has contributed significantly in supporting rural healthcare, water treatment, power distribution and capital providing access to wide variety of financing options in PNG,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.He also announced that GE will soon establish an office in Port Moresby to work more closely with the government, partners and customers particularly through our oil & gas, power & water and healthcare businesses.Mr Sargent in response to Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said, GE is specifically keen on working with the government and international institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank on how to increase access to electricity to 70% of the population by 2030.“GE is operational in more than 160 countries around the globe and we work best there where we have a strong understanding of the priorities and where we can offer multiple solutions with our technology, expertise and experience,” he said.
**** Minister Don Polye will have to justify his claims ****
Please share across your networks. Today, Minister Polye decided to take the radio waves across PNG, to discuss why he was removed from his Treasury position. This could have been a very positive and constructive interview, but quickly turned into a position of Minister Polye, unknowing, creating more confusion around himself, and also de-stabilizing his own Government position.In the interview, the Minister Hon. Polye has made numerous claims, mostly around pending court cases and the Oil Search share process.During this interview, he has changed his story with regard to the pending Paraka court cases and many other items.This is a unfortunate situation and does not reflect well on Minister Polye. It has now put him in a position of whether he is actually telling the truth?’.Only weeks ago, he stood next the Prime Minister supporting him completely and standing behind the findings of Task Force Sweep, and the clearing of the Prime Minister with regards to this case.Today, he has made a direct attack on the Prime Minister and changed his story.The Prime Minister during the re-shuffle of his cabinet, made the direct and clear reasoning that Minister Polye was removed, is due to his consistent motivation to de-stabilize the Government and his inability to properly managing the Treasury Portfolio as needed by the Government going forward.It has disappointed the Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill that Minister Polye has decided to take this course of action. “As a Minister for the Government, and for his own reputation, this is a very short sighted and naïve position to take. His comments are nothing but lies. My positive position out of all of this, is that, I made the right decision, at the right time.”, commented the Prime MinisterThe Minister Polye has now been requested to attend an interview with PNG Police. This is to discuss this new claims and change in story over the Paraka case.The Opposition Leader, Belden Namah is now congratulating Minister Polye in an interesting turn of events.The interesting part to all of this, is that during the past few months, the Opposition Leader, Belden Namah, was clearly seeking to have Minister Polye arrested for corruption. This week, the Opposition Leader is inviting to have Minister Polye as part of the opposition team. So which one is it Opposition Leader Belden Namah, are you wanting to really fight corruption or just take anyone to join you to try and achieve your own goals??The question the Government and many of the Ministers are now asking of Minister Polye, “Why now come out with this?? It looks like you are lying to suit a new purpose..”So the summary to all of this, and before the Opposition Leader starts asking for the Prime Minister to stand aside once more, as he has done for the past 6 months. There is no truth in Minister Polye’s interview comments.The Minister Polye, will now need to front to PNG Police and explain his new position / story. The Opposition will need to decide what they are going to do with this… At the end of the day, the Government and Prime Minister will get on with its job of providing for the people, while the Opposition Leader and Minister Polye work out the lies between them, to try and once again de-stabilize the Government.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O'Neill welcomes review of UBS loan by Ombudsman Commission ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill welcomed the decision by the Ombudsman Commission to review the NEC decision to obtain a loan from UBS to pay for shares in Oil Search Limited. In a press statement the Prime Minister said so much much lies, misinformation and innuendos have been spread about this loan since NEC made the decision. “And I welcome this review announced by the Ombudsman Commission “I have said that unlike past practice, all details relating to this loan will be tabled in Parliament by this government for scrutiny. “All these details will be made available to the Ombudsman Commission for the review it is conducting. “As I said before, this loan was obtained so our people, through the government, can own a part of this strategic company Oil Search, and be a direct player in the development of our vast petroleum resources.“We cannot be mere bystanders anymore. We must partner and partake in the development of our resources, so we benefit from taxes, and in taking profits as a shareholder as well.” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said debt raising (loan) was a normal thing done around the world, and is a growth tool when applied properly. “The entire PNG LNG project is about 70% debt financed, and our participation (about 17%) will generate about $A30 billion over three decades. “That is securing our future, not selling our country as some commentators are suggesting.“Oil Search owns 29% of the PNG LNG project. Its profits are set to quadruple when revenue starts flowing. It has made a strategic move on the Elk/Entelope project. “What we have done is simply position ourselves to benefit from the growth of Oil Search, and the continued development of our petroleum resource into the future.” The Prime Minister reiterated that PNG’s debt as a portion of GDP will remain unaffected at 35% by the loan and how it is structured. “In fact our debt position is much better than countries like Japan (debt 227% of GDP), USA 101%, UK 88%, New Zealand 35.9%, Singapore 110%, Malaysia 53%. “The deficit in our budget is being used entirely to drive growth, as noted by the two economic experts from the ANZ Bank who visited PNG last week. “Our economy is growing at around 6% this year. In 2015 our GDP will almost double its size as a result of the LNG export. “We should be proud that our decision to direct interest and become a partner has made this possible, now and for the future. “I want to again assure every Papua New Guinean that the decision by NEC to buy 10.1% of Oil Search is a very good deal for all of us. “We will provide all the information on this transaction to the Ombudsman Commission, and table them in Parliament in May,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.
**** PRIME MINISTER HON. PETER O'NEILL MEETS WITH ISRAELI BISHOPS ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill met with various bishops of the Kad-Esh MAP Ministeries International, who are based in Eilat, Israel. This Christian ministry operates from Israel and reaches out to many nations worldwide. This contingent was headed by the Ministry Director, Dr. Dominquae Bierman accompanied by Bishop Phylis Lines; Rev. Elizabeth George and Rev. Joseph Walters; Pr. Charlie George and Pr Mollie George.“The courtesy call paid on me was upon my invitation to re-emphasize Papua New Guinea’s already strong ties with Israel; enhancing Christianity,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said.He acknowledged the many books written by Bishop Dominiquae aiming to restore ‘The Church to its Original Apostolic Jewish Foundations’ and to call the nations to repentance.“Her work is inspirational and restores the true Gospel as it was preached by the Jewish Apostles 2000 years ago. The most well-known of them is ‘The Healing Power of the Roots’," the Prime Minister said. The courtesy call followed the ministry’s tour throughout the Highlands region, including the Western and Southern Highlands provinces recently.“Bishop Dominiquae has been one of the Christain leaders, who has spearheaded the movement of restoration of the Sephardic Jews to their identity lost during the Spanish Inquisition and bringing them back to their promised home, the Negev Desert. “Multitudes of them are being restored as she preaches God's Word,” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill thanked the Kad-Esh MAP Ministries International for their good work in the country and expressed the government’s appreciation for their visit.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill did NOT approve Paraka bills ****
Minister for Finance James Marape maintains that Prime Minister O'Neill has never issued instructions for the Department of Finance to pay Paraka Lawyers claims unless the Attorney General clears the bills.This stand was made by Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill, when I consulted him as to whether the PNG government were to pay Paraka Lawyers when the Department of Finance was presented with a Paraka Lawyers invoice for K36,083,599.65 on October 4, 2012.I was clearly instructed by Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill NOT to pay Paraka Lawyers invoices. The Attorney General also asked for further assessment on the same invoices. I placed an immediate stop to any /all payments of these invoices on the 31st of October, 2012. This superseded all earlier instructions and exchanges in regards to this claim by Paraka Lawyers.When I made reference to the Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill on the earlier letter of January 2012, with regards to some lump sum payments that had already been approved and taken place in early January by then Treasurer and Finance Minister Polye. The Prime Minister mentioned to me, that he had no knowledge of this payment approval, and this had happened without his consent.I would like to put on record for all of PNG, that the four payments made by the Department of Finance, when I was the Minister, happened without my approval as the Minister for the Department and without the Prime Ministers knowledge or approval for these payments to Paraka Lawyers. I personally, after a very clear directive from the Prime Minister stopped the Department of Finance from making any payments to Paraka Lawyers. In the process of ensuring no payments had been made to Parake Lawyers, it became apparent that an officer below the Secretary of the department, had run four different payments. These occurred as follows: K14m in November 2012, K13.8m in December 2013, K6m in March 2013, K8m in May 2013.Now, if the Prime Minister stopped me from dealing with Paraka Lawyers invoices and asked me to refer it to our State Solicitors, I doubt that earlier exchanges on the same claim would have been cleared by Prime Minister.For the former Treasurer Polye, to alleged that the Prime Minister issued payment instruction on the Paraka Lawyers invoices, is totally contrary to Prime Ministers instructions to me not to pay. I have on record, a written apology by the staff member who facilitated Paraka Lawyers payments and his acknowledgement of his failure to adhere to my last instructions of not to pay Paraka Lawyers, until the Attorney General and State Solicitor clears all invoices. My instructions NOT to pay Paraka Lawyers, was directly from the Prime Minister. His instructions were very clear and not to pay Paraka Lawyers.For Hon. Polye to sling mud at the Prime Minister, at the time of his decommissioning as Minister on the Paraka matter is something I contest here. Under my watch as the Finance Minister, the Prime Ministers attitude to Paraka Lawyers has been negative. All of the items involving Paraka Lawyers, are the current subjects of investigation before the police. We have furnished all information, and my press statement here is totally consistent with my police statement. I am compelled to defend the Prime Minister, because it is insinuated that the Prime Minister approved the payment to Paraka Lawyers. Infact on two occasions, the Prime Minister called me and asked why we were still paying Paraka Lawyers, on in January 2013, another on the night of March 17 2013. That night in March, I was with Mr Augustine Mano MD of MRDC and a Daniel Korimbao from DPM. Both of these gentlemen heard the Prime Minister asking me of the payments to Paraka Lawyers, and why they had been paid, when he had clearly said no to paying Paraka Lawyers. I then called the acting secretary of finance and he denied paying Paraka Lawyers. He was on speaker and was heard by the same gentlemen, on his denial of payments. Next day I asked him to check these payments to Paraka Lawyers and he sadly denied the payment, despite him already paying the law firm without my knowledge.Now the issue is…If the Prime Minister approved Paraka Lawyers invoices, why would he stop me in the first instance in October 2012 and be continuously on my back against paying Paraka Lawyers until proper clearance was given. Paraka Lawyers invoices backdates my time, and the Prime Ministers time and Hon. Polye’s time. What ever happened when Hon. Polye paid a lump sum in January 2012, he will respond to. I know personally of the Prime Minister absolute clear direction not to pay Paraka Lawyers, his absolute disapproval and denial when he was referred to this purported letter enclosed in Paraka lawyers invoices. The Prime Minister has never given instructions for a K70m plus bills of Paraka Lawyers to be settle by the Department of Finance. This payment was made through a defective administrative process and we are now here discussing this issues that is heavily clouded with politics.I ask all commentators to leave politics out of any debate and allow the merits of this case to be weighted in its civil or criminal proposition and for relevant authorities like Police, Task Force Sweep, Ombudmans and Courts to bring the matter to conclusion as quickly as possible.
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill: PNG must own resources ****
Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said Papua New Guineans must not only be spectators and tax collectors but resource owners to reap maximum benefits from their non renewable resources. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said this last Friday on FM 100 talkback show hosted by Roger Hau’ofa, which was also attended by Public Enterprise Minister Ben Micah and NCD Governor Powes Parkop. The Prime Minister, who went on air to explain the K3 billion UBS loan, said there has been a lot of misinformation that was going around on the loan arrangements.He said the UBS loan is not a new loan but the one that replaces the IPIC loan from the Arabs who have since refused to sell back the Oil Search shares mortgage for Papua New Guinea’s 19.4 percent equity participation in the LNG project. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said Papua New Guineans have not held any interest in major resource projects such as Lihir, Misima and Porgera mines but have been mere tax and royalty collectors for the last 40 years.“Papua New Guineans all throughout the country are crying for ownership of their own resources and rightfully so because we have had the experience over the past forty years about resource development in the country. “Many of our citizens feel that we have been deprived of the benefits from these resources that should truly be given back to Papua New Guineans.” Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said since this government took office, it heard that cry for resource ownership and was trying its best to find a way to increase the benefits that are going to come to Papua New Guinea.“We don’t just want to be tax collectors, we don’t want to be royalty collectors, we must have ownership of many of our resource developments,” he said. He said that the Government was addressing these cries and did not break any laws in negotiating the loan with the UBS Bank for K3 billion. He said when PNG government went to negotiate the IPIC loan for the LNG project, the government had no money, so the State had to mortgage virtually everything it owns, including all assets of government.He said by March 6 this year, PNG had zero percent shares in Oil Search due to the IPIC loan arrangements and with the Arabs refusal to sell back the 15 percent shares held in Oil Search. “Knowing very well that Papua New Guineans want to own resources, the government had to find a way to get some shares, so when Oil Search was prepared to go to the market to do their own business transactions with the Gulf LNG project, they need to raise money to pay for that investment. He said Oil Search went public through the Australian Stock Exchange inviting every other shareholder and since PNG were not share holders, the government negotiated and asked that since the government has been 100 percent at one time, it asked the company to give back some shares to the people.“I think all in all, you have some savings that PNG must be proud of and we must make sure that Papua New Guineans continue to own resources in their own country. These resources are not renewable resources, once they ar taken out of PNG, it will never come back so Papua New Guineans must maximise their benefits.”
**** Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill: K3b loan the best deal ****
The country has made a saving of $AU400 million from the K3 billion UBS loan which Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill described as the best deal for Papua New Guinea. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill, explaining the deal on FM100 talkback show on Friday, said this is not a new loan but one that replaces the IPIC loan with better terms and interest rates without breaking any laws of the land He said when the Government under the Somare regime went out in 2008-09 to negotiate for the LNG project, PNG government had no money to pay for its 19.4 percent shares in the project.He said the government negotiated with the Arabs to get what is now the IPIC loan and in turn mortgage all government assets like Air Niugini, PNG Ports and all other assets held under IPBC and the General Trust. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said the agreement was that by March 6, 2014, PNG government was to repay the loan at $AU8.55 per share and to repay the loan also include buying back Oil Search shares.He said the Central Bank, IPBC and Treasury were tasked to go out and conduct a bidding process from banks to borrow money to buy back those shares. He said when the bidding process was conducted the Central Bank, IPBC and Treasury recommended to government that they have found the loan from UBS to be most competitive in terms of interest rates, in terms of repayment and so forth and government gave notice to the Arabs that it now has the money. Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill said the government wanted to buy back but the Arabs wrote back to advising that they wanted to keep the shares. “The government had to find a way to get some shares because our people need to own their own resources, so Oil Search was prepared to go to the market to do their own business transactions with the Gulf Oil project.”