Author Archives: PNGdailynews

Elections Review: Highlands Region

Journalist Freddy Mou witnessed firsthand the volatile situation of elections in the Highlands.

This is his summary of elections in the Highlands.

The campaign period in the Highlands region is always a time to showcase the sort of leaders a tribe has.

This is when pigs, cows and other livestock are slaughtered, with celebrations after celebrations held at various campaign venues by candidates to try and lure voters.

As described by bishops and Diocesan Secretaries of the four Highlands Dioceses in their Annual Regional Secretaries Meeting earlier this year, elections in the region have never been free, fair and transparent.

The people of the region have suffered and many have been routinely denied services.

Only a minority have benefited while the common people struggle to make ends meet.

While elections in the Highlands is known for its fiesta, mandating a leader always involved violence and corrupt dealings, requiring more security.

Security personnel engaged for the elections were mainly focused on the Highlands.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki, in a meeting with government departmental heads before the campaign period, said there were still issues in the Highlands which needed close attention.

He cautioned that for the past five years, provinces such as Southern Highlands witnessed peace but this did not mean there would be no threats or disruptions during the election period.

As reported, no election related violence occurred during the campaign period but a large sum of cash was involved.

Heading into and during polling, a lot of issues were raised by concerned candidates and supporters.

These involved the electoral roll update, polling venues and others.

Bulk voting and underage voting was also witnessed in some parts of the Highlands region.

Even though security personnel were present at the polling venues, nothing was done to stop such practices.

A candidate in the Goroka Open seat posted pictures on social media alleging that people were voting at will, without any control from the polling officials.

However, Provincial Election Manager Steven Kaupa brushed aside the allegations.

Kaupa, when asked about the claims, said the presiding officer, at that time, allowed that to happen in order to complete polling on time.

Furthermore, the rugged terrain of some remote areas in the Highlands region is always a challenge to the Electoral Commission when conducting polling.

Most of the provinces in the region did not complete polling on time as scheduled because of such.

An issue that grabbed the public’s attention is now before the court: Sunday polling.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s Ialibu-Pangia electorate was one of the areas implicated in this.

However, Ialibu-Pangia Returning Officer Michael Ariando explained that due to time constraints, he had to allow for Sunday polling with the advice from Election Manager David Wakias and Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

Counting was also one of the scrutinised areas where candidates and scrutineers were on alert.

Rumours of election officials allegedly being bribed during counting was the ‘talk of the day’.

However, despite criticisms, Tari-Pori electorate in Hela Province was the first to declare its MP.

Returning Officer for Tari, Jack Walara, declared James Marape at 11:30am on July 9 in Tari, Hela Province.

Walara confirmed that Marape reached the absolute majority of 50% + 1, collecting 30,192 votes.

One of the counting venues that had raised its standards, in terms of security, was the counting venue for Eastern Highlands Province. The area was fitted with surveillance cameras all around the centre.

Declarations have been made on time for most Highlands provinces but only a few that were marred with election-related violence were prolonged. These provinces include; Kandep Open in Enga, Kundiawa in Simbu, Eastern Highlands regional, Southern Highlands regional and Simbu provincial.

Wabag town in Enga Province turned into a battlefield one Saturday morning on July 22, when supporters of two candidates confronted each other with high-powered guns. This followed the attempted murder of Kandep district returning officer Ben Besawe and other officials.

Eyewitnesses and security personnel said Besawe and two other election officials were shot at in front of a guest house at Wabag town.

This occurred while they were preparing to make their way to the counting venue at Wabag Primary School.

The incident led to a clash between supporters of two candidates from Kandep, who have been at loggerheads over election-related matters.

In Kundiawa, Simbu Province, three people are dead and several others hospitalised after a riot broke out in the counting centre. The incident occurred at around 7am on Sunday, July 30, 2017.

It was alleged that supporters of incumbent MP Tobias Kulang tried to enter the counting centre when they were stopped by members of the public, which then led to a big fight.

Many election related incidents have occurred in other areas but have remained unreported.

Now that all declarations have been made, except for Southern Highlands regional, and MPs elect have signed the declaration of loyalty to serve the people and the Independent State of PNG, election petitions will most likely increase to challenge the victory of the elected leaders.

(Loop file pic of protest in Enga)


Better Regulatory Mechanism Needed For Pasca

Co-operation between all stake­holders to put in place a better fiscal and regulatory mechanism for the the petroleum and mining industry, and the economy as a whole, is needed.

Papua New Guinea Extractive Indus­try Transparency Initiative (PNGEITI) head of national secretariat Lucas Alkan said the country’s first off-shore gas project, the K1 billion Pasca Gas Field in Gulf, is set for first drilling in 2020.

Mr Alkan said changes in technology and the way people do business today are so swift, and the petroleum and mining industry have their own challenges and opportunities.

He said the country is in a very unique position to be a model country to set standards that other miners and explorers around the world can learn from. “The Solwara 1 Project in New Ireland and the Pasca projects are case in point,” Mr Alkan said.

“We are of the view that the industry and the Government are living up to meeting immediate obligations and this must be further be strengthened to see better outcomes,” Mr Alkan said.

“If there needs to be finer tunning to certain legislations and policies, the timing is now right to make things happen. He said PNGEITI believes that with the offshore gas project in the Gulf province, the Department of Petroleum and Energy is on top of this in terms of policy and legislations to cater for this development.

“We hope to see better outcomes from negotiations and discussions around setting up better fiscal and regulatory frameworks to lay solid foundations for similar projects in future.

“We have world class technical expertise to make PNG a model mining and petroleum country that strictly upholds global best practices, whether it be in transparency or the overall approach taken in administering and regulating business in the mining and petroleum space.

“There is a whole scheme of things we need to harmonize before the economy and the investors’ alike can enjoy the benefits of PNG’s resource.

“We at PNGEITI always stand ready to do our bit to promote accountability and transparency in the industry.”

Govt Offers Rebate To Land Catches Onshore

The Government will work closely with the fishing industry to implement new policy initiatives announced by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last week.

Fisheries and Marine Resources Mini­ster Patrick Basa held a meeting with representatives from the fishing industry last week to assure them.
The initiatives announced by Mr O’Neill included a rebate being offered to fishing companies so that they land their catches onshore to be processed.

The Government forecasts that this would prompt the existing processors to lift their capacity from about 30 percent to about 70 percent. This would create more jobs for Papua New Guineans, and ensure revenue and foreign exchange that is lost to countries like Philippines and Thailand are retained. But the companies say they have not seen the details of the rebates scheme, and are worried that its fast implementation would lead to them make financial losses, resulting in the closure of their business.

Chief among their concerns is the high cost of doing business in PNG, poor infrastructure, lack of adequate and reliable power supply, and high labour cost.
Minister Basa told the representatives that the government appreciates their concerns, and will work closely with them to ensure their concerns are accommodated and addressed. He told them the government was not against the companies, but working towards ensuring a greater return to its people for the harvest of their resource.

Minister Basa instructed the National Fisheries Authority to work with the industry representatives in the nest three months to develop a matrix on the way forward. He directed, among other things, for the NFA to identify the catches by fleets over the last 5 years in PNG and where these fish are landed or exported.

He directed that these data be clear on whether these catches are recorded as catches from Distant Fishing Nations, Locally based foreign flagged vessels, or PNG flagged vessels.

“We need to know the exact volume of catches and by fleets. Further to that I want to also know the volume of catches by fleets that is landed in Bangkok and the Philippines,” the Minister said.

With four processing plants already operating in Malahang Industrial Centre in Lae, and another two being planned, the government is pushing ahead to build a wharf dedicated to serve fishing companies.

That wharf is to be built in nearby Wagung, and this would address one of the concerns of the fishing industry – the lack of a proper port facility for fish.

Govt To Decide On Death Penalty Soon

THE Government is expected to make a decision soon on the death penalty while 12 people on death row continue to wait.
Justice Minister and Attorney-General Davis Steven said a decision would be made soon on the matter.
“I’ve got 12 people waiting to die. Do you think they are going to go away? I’m going to make a decision very shortly.
“The debate will continue. But as long as it’s law, somebody has got to enforce it,” he said.
He said the people would be given an opportunity to discuss the issue too.
Steven told The National that the previous government had allocated funds t

o ensure that all the different modes of execution and other issues were considered.
“Two things are clear. There is a death penalty imposed. And 12 of our citizens have been sentenced.
“They have been waiting while we have been meandering and creating all sorts of excuses.”

Exim bank approves K350m PMIZ loan


The China Exim Bank have agreed to fund the new plan for the government’s multi-million Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) project with a US$152million (K350million) loan.
The loan is concessional and will be repaid by government when the project is operational and generates returns.
This was announced by the Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry Wera Mori in a statement he issued yesterday.
Mr Mori said the initial Financial Investment Decision (FID) by the Exim Bank was stalled by the lengthy court battle with the Madang Environmental groups.
The initial Financial Investment Decision (FID) by the EXIM Bank of China was stalled by the lengthy court battle with Madang Environmental NGOs, resulting in the withholding of funds that had been earmarked for its development. However, the minister said traction was made on the project under the leadership of his predecessor now Planning Minister Richard Maru.
“Under Mr Maru, the PMIZ was redesigned to cater for all the communities and to hall larger ships into the new wharf.
“Further for the redesigning and renegotiation of the FID with the EXIM Bank of China,” Mr Mori said.
Mr Mori said he would be calling for a general forum to gauge the views of all impacted stakeholders to gauge their views which will be captured in a supplementary Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).
He said given the disruptions the project had suffered, this was his initiative for a way forward to discourage any further delays and wastage of resources.
“The PMIZ project must be delivered under my leadership without any further delays,” the minister stressed.

Visa And Passport Services On Hold

Visa and passport services by freelance agents have been suspended pending finalisation of a policy to regulate them.
This was announced by the Immigration and Border Security Minister Petrus Thomas who said that the deferment comes at a time when several changes will be made over the next few weeks to improve detection of fraud and abuse in migration services.
It will also put in place a system to improve revenue collection for the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority.
“I have directed acting Chief Migration Officer Solomon Kantha to immediately suspend the services of all freelance agents dealing with visa and passports and put in a place a policy to regulate agents. This is to deal with fraudulent applications being facilitated by freelance agents,” Mr Thomas said.
“We are also putting a payment system for collection of migration service fees for the Authority to start directly collecting fees by January 1, 2018. This is to improve revenue collection, client service in creating a one stop shop process and counter fraudulent receipts that are provided to us.”
A directive has also been given to review all APEC Business Travel Card holders to deal with abuses of the card by foreigners that use this privilege of the APEC card to gain employment in the country the minister said.
Also in progress is a submission that will go to Cabinet to review the taskforce dealing with unlawful foreigners, they will be working with other law enforcement agencies to conduct spot checks around the country and take appropriate actions against unlawful foreign nationals.
Mr Thomas said that the SME moratorium that came into place last month has also assisted in identifying key positions for foreign workers in the SME businesses for visas to be issued.
“The consultation process with relevant agencies is ongoing and we will also work with other key agencies to establish a Foreign Review Committee to vet investors that are coming into PNG to do business and invest in reserved activities,” he said.

Trade Agreements To Push PNG Economy


PNG must identify countries that are interested in its products and immediately commence discussions and signing of trade agreements.
This was the push from the Fisheries Minister Patrick Basa at the opening of the First Pacific Seafood and Technology Exposition on Tuesday. Mr Basa said steps which have already been undertaken by the National Fisheries Authority to consider the establishment of a Fisheries Trade Lobby group comprising government sector representatives was a step in the right direction and must be treated as a matter of urgency.
He said the expo which had the backing of the O’Neill government was in line with the vision of the Pacific leaders’ calls for a regional roadmap for sustainable fisheries adding that the region could not afford to sit back and wait for opportunities.
“We must be able to have seafood products packed properly and be able to compete in the world market,” Mr Basa said.
“In doing so, our SMEs will be able to get better returns for their products in turn generating spinoffs and other opportunities not just in PNG but throughout the region. He urged also that given the demand all over the world for seafood and marine products from the Pacific particularly in processed and packaged forming partnerships would be key between the SMEs and processors.
He said this is because it would be able to meet market demand adding such an arrangement would ensure transfer of skills.

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