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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Maiden Speech by Opposition

SAM BASIL MP

This speech being delivered from the floor of Parliament on the 4th of September, parts of it will be removed from HANSARD because it contains the NPF Issue - Says the Honorable Speaker of the 9th Parliament.

1.0 INTRODUCTION & SALUTATIONS
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to speak for the first time in this 9thNational Parliament.
First of all Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my family and my people of Bulolo Electorate, I would like to congratulate you, and the people of Finschhafen, inyour promotion to this highest office in our Legislature. Congratulations!
I would also like to register the congratulations of my Bulolo people – and my own as well as my family’s congratulations – to the Prime Ministerand Member for Ialibu-PangiaHonourable Peter O’Neill for retaining the nation’s top executive post.
Mr. Speaker, I would not be here – for a second five-year term – without the overwhelming vote of the people of Bulolo. I would like to convey my special thanks and appreciation to the Waria, Wau Rural, Upper Watut, Wau Urban, Bulolo Urban, Mumeng and Buang people who gave me an absolute majority first preference votes of 24,956to represent them in this Honourable House.
I will truly serve themwithout fear or favor at the national level but I will do so without forgetting my responsibilities in carrying the burden for Bulolo District.
To theLeader of Opposition, the Honourable Belden Namah, Member for Vanimo-Green, and the 15 MPs who elected me unanimously as the Deputy Leader of Opposition on Monday, 6th August 2012, I say thank you very much.
Mr Speaker, I want to use this occasion:
1. To suggest reforms to restore and preserve the integrity, impartiality and dignity of the Office of the Speaker
2. To call for earnest preparations for the 2017 National Elections to begin immediately.
3. To urge Prime Minister O’Neill to begin his Government’s fight against corruption by clearing the air onoutstanding controversies.
4. To affirm the role of the Opposition in ensuring Good Governance.

2.0 REFORMING THE OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER
Mr Speaker, we served together as ordinary MPs in the Opposition ranks in the last Parliament. So we saw many practices and rulings that were blatantly against principles of good governance and raises key questions.
For example,how does the chair maintain its impartiality and objectivity in ruling without allowing itself to be dictated to – by the majority of Government MPs – who elected the occupant of that chair?Should the Speaker resign from his political party once the elections are over?
How can – and what are the grounds upon which – the occupant of the Speaker’s chair can be removed?
Moves to address these concerns will greatly restore integrity, respect and dignity to the Office of the Speaker which many MPs – and the people of Papua New Guinea – want to see happen.
Another area which your great office can addressis the effective use of the wealth of information delivered by many MPs – past, current and in the future recorded in Hansard - the official record of Parliament Proceedings.
I refer to maiden speeches and grievance debatesby MPs on their districts’ development and national issues which are not noted and incorporated into Government Policy.
Mr Speaker, with your encouragement, the majority of Cabinet Ministers can make it their business to remain in attendance, to listen and take note and use this wealth of information by mandated representatives. If Minister have to be absent on State matters, they should inform your office in advance. If that is practically impossible, they should apologise and explain their absence in their next appearance on the Floor upon their return.

3.0 Preparations for 2017 National Election
Mr Speaker, while we rejoice in this Honourable House, we must not be deaf to the voices of up to 20 per cent of voters and thousands of losing candidates. Many want to brand the 2012 National Elections as the worst of the eight National Elections held in Papua New Guinea since 1977.
The facts are accumulating with the number of election petitions that have been filed. The most revealing comes from a recentlyleaked Electoral Commission report which states:

4,776,096 – eligible voters enrolled for 2012 National Elections
3,672,251 – eligible voters actually cast their votes. This means that
1,103,845 – eligible voters DID NOT cast their votes.

In the Buloloelection, there were no extra generic ballot papers used. There were informal votes due to some illiterate voters in the remote areas of Bulolo District. Many rival candidates’ thrived on this and collected majority votes from their tribes/clansmencompared to the votes I received.
Mr. Speaker, while my own win is undisputed, I am very dissatisfied with the Electoral Commission. They rushed the electionsdespite serious concerns about the updating of the common roll nationwide. Now reports show 1.1 million eligible voters did not cast their voters and that they overspent their budget by K500 million.
What I do not understand is that in Bulolo, up to 20 per cent of the voters were not on the common rolls.On top of this, there are claims of inflated number of voters whichjumped incredibly by 100 to 500 percent.
In Wau Rural LLG, Mr. Speaker, frustrated voters assaulted the Assistant Returning Officerwhen their names could not be found in the updated Common Roll. The same problem was reported throughout Bulolo Electorate with over 10,000 to 15,000 voters denied their rights to vote.
Mr Speaker, I would urge Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his 94-Member coalition Government to go all out to ensure there is no repeat of mistakes from the 2012 National Elections.
Updating of the Common Roll and ensuring that the biometric voting system is well established and tested before the 2017 National Elections must be high priority.
Peoples National Congress Party – the Prime Minister’s Party – was given the numbers to receive the invitation from the Governor-General to form Government. Any delays will fuel the perception that Mr O’Neill’s PNC Party does not want to fix the National Elections Process and Integrity because their party stands to benefit again in 2017.
The Government must also ensure that the Electoral Commission and the Judiciary are well equipped to fast track all election disputes that arise from the 2012 National Elections.
Our people in districts must not be made to suffer from lack of delivery of basic services and effective representationbecause of prolonged Courts of Disputed Returns.
The Prime Minister should begin with investigations into the budget blow out of K500million, the Electoral Commission report on the 2012 National Election,and go beyond that to table a report with recommendations on procurement processes, five-year schedules of common roll updates, and phased introduction and testing of the bio metric voting system and a realistic budget over the next five years.
The actions taken will help ensure a truly free, fair and safe elections and within the given budget.

4.0 FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Mr Speaker, it is good to hear the Honourable Prime Minister declare his determination to weed and stamp out corruption in our country with the introduction of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Mr O’Neill has announced the establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Strategy Task Force (NACSTF) to be headed by the Department of Prime Minister& NEC.
Coincidentally, I hear the new Member of Henganofi in the O’Neill/Dion Government emerging out of his cocoon and opting to sponsor a private members bill that could wipe away all the pending cases so that we can start a fresh with the new Anti-Corruption initiative of the O’Neill/Dion Government.
That to me shows that the Government is succumbing to public demand in creating the ICAC on one hand at the same time covering itself so that their creation does not haunt them.
Are we genuine in the cause? If the Government has nothing to worry about, why is it trying to manipulate to cover yourselves?
How can you fight corruption in the future when there is no deterrence precedence set on past offenders? This is most unthinkable and unheard of approach to fight corruption. Does the Government realise that these would pave the way to entrenchand institutionalize corruption?
Mr Speaker, the Honourable Prime Minister’s words will have a hollow ring with this seemingly forked approach – adding to the dark clouds hanging over him from NPF Inquiry and the Public Service Housing deal.
On that note, the Prime Minister must earnestly seek to be absolved publicly by competent authorized legal entities before he can lead this anti-corruption reforms.The same must happen with leaders who are associated or implicated with controversial issues.
Mr. Speaker, we changed the Somare regime more than 12 months ago, and established the Investigation Task Force Sweep to investigate misdeeds under the Somare Regime. Key players in that former Somare Regime are now integrated into the O’Neill/Dion Government.
The Prime Minister must inform the country what deal he has made with the Somare Regime as coalition partners in Government often not only trade for ministries and membership on boards, but also compromise toforgive-and-forget cases.
In practice, this means suppressing of law enforcing agencies efforts to pursue cases through threats on loss of jobs, halt flow of funds affecting logistical support on cases, rewarding of investigators who turn a blind eye on cases, and even make important files go ‘convenientlymissing’.
On ICAC, the Opposition would like to buy into something that is genuine and not a window-dresser. We want something that is feasible and can stand the test of political pressures. ICAC must be punitive to wrong-doers and send signals that there is no escape for white-collar criminals posing as leaders.
We must stop issues like the daylight robbery of members superannuation savings like that exposed in the NPF inquiry, the abuse of members’ fund in the (then POSF) purchase and head-lease arrangement of The Cairns Conservatory and Malagan House in Brisbane.
We must stop issues like the Julian Moti affair where decisions from the Office of a Prime Minister resulted in breaking of a multitude of laws – domestic and international – which is likely to reincarnate and devour funds which are needed to save and improve the lives of our people.
We must stop issues of international embarrassment like the stealing of state funds from the Taiwanese government in pretense of diplomatic recognition knowing very well that PNG – was one of the first nations to recognize and maintains a “One China Policy” recognition of the mainland Peoples Republic of China.
We must stop political engineering of clashes between the executive, judiciary and parliamentary arms of government;
We must stop political engineering of divisions within our disciplined forces nationally and/or setting them up against each other;
We must stop renting crowds and inciting riots to achieve our political ends with a view that the “end justifies the means”.
If we are honest, there will be a lot of confessions in relation to these gestures. We all know that to date, no one has been successfully prosecuted and put behind bars for many of these offenses which are criminal in nature.
Mr Speaker,
Corruption – and the fight against it advocated by so many of us must translate into practical action. We must rise up – even beyond ourselves – we must rise up against it, and fight to completely eradicate it.

5.0 THE OPPOSITION IS COMMITTED TO GOOD GOVERNANCE

Mr. Speaker, as an Opposition under the leadership of Honourable Belden Namah, our terms of reference is clear: we will still stand united and expose, oppose all traces of bad governance. We will grow in number to depose the Government-of-the-day with a better alternate Government.
Many of us spent more than four years in the Opposition during the 8th Parliament exposing and opposing misdeeds by the then Somare-led Government.
That Coalition Government if I am not wrong has incarnated itself and re-organised now under Prime Minister O’Neill.
Correct me if I am wrong, but most of the MPs implicated or associated with the controversial issues I raised and others which I have not: aren’t they sitting on the other side?
The voters want a change to this country that is why they removed their mandate from more than half of previous MPs and gave it to new legislators.
I fail to understand why all the new MPs – many who campaigned against corruption – have aligned themselves to veteran MPs on the other side.
What is your purpose on this Floor today aside from your electoral obligations and responsibilities?
This question, Mr. Speaker, I leave to MPs from both sides of the House.
But one thing is clear: Those controversies mentioned cannot be addressed by MPs who have strings attached to them; They can only be addressed by newly elected MPs and bold leaders who are not afraid to make decisions.
We – and by that I mean the former Opposition Coalition – were used as the spring board for the National Alliance and its coalition to reorganize itself successfully and take control again.
Mr. Speaker, sitting in this Parliament we can see different leaders with different characters. We can see mostly veteran MPs who are on top of the pyramid - mainly party leaders who lead and also hold senior portfolios after every formation of Government.
These smart leaders somehow became millionaires after entering Parliament and have a lot of money to spend at every election thereafter winning numbers to keep and maintain the status quo – of course with them in control.
It has even become a trade for them to master their timing and alliances to be in government since entering parliament and they are very good at it.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if many young MPs realize they re just pawns - used by the veteran MPs to bolster their numbers - so these leaders can maintain their status and privileges in Government term after term.
My point is that the only time this country can break free is when fresh MPs take the lead and I can assure PNG that many outstanding issues will be dealt with without fear or favor and with strong leadership.
We believe that as national leaders, anything which opposes the national interest – that takes away from the preamble of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea – and the National Goals and Directive Principles is an enemy to this country and its great people.
Mr Speaker, we must set up transparency mechanisms, accountability measures, that monitor our own decision-making – without us manipulating them.
As an Opposition Coalition, we stood our grounds and refused to repeat the status quo.
We will support Government agenda done with the purity of intentions.
But we will not support some window-dresser mechanisms to divert and defuse public pressure.

Thank You, Mr Speaker.