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Pacific News Minute: Pressure mounts on PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill

APEC 2013 / Flickr
APEC 2013 / Flickr

In Papua New Guinea, scandals and crises threaten to overwhelm Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. After courts reinstated the police anti-corruption unit, his arrest appears to be just a matter of time, and protests mount on university campuses and in an Australian detention camp. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Most ominous, is the corruption charge that goes back to O'Neill's previous job, as Finance Minister. While his lawyers stalled his arrest on one technicality after another, his political supporters attempted to intimidate, discredit, and finally dismantle the police anti-corruption squad. Earlier this month, the courts re-instated the unit once again, and the arrest warrant awaits one more judicial review.

Students demanding his resignation have effectively shut down both the University of Papua New Guinea in the capital, Port Moresby, and the University of Technology in Lae for three weeks now.

Armed police moved onto the campus of UPNG this week and  the Chief Secretary to the Government declared the boycott the work of outsiders -"Make no mistake, " a statement read, " the agitators behind the protest are not students, but have much more sinister purposes."

At the same time, the government appears paralyzed by a Supreme Court decision that ordered the closure of the Australian detention camp on Manus Island. 850 asylum seekers there protest that they're still illegally detained.

This week, the member of parliament who brought their case to court, former opposition leader Belden Namah, told a news conference that Prime Minister O'Neill had compromised the country's constitution to serve the interests of a foreign government. Namah added, "The whole country needs to rally behind the university students and the PNG anti-Corruption police...and demand the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister."

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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