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Pacific News Minute: Government of Papua New Guinea Survives No Confidence Vote; Protests Continue

APEC 2013 / Flickr
APEC 2013 / Flickr

In Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill survived last Friday's motion of no confidence in parliament. After months of controversy, the vote wasn't close, as 85 MPs stood with the Prime Minister, while just 21 voted with the opposition. Even so, protests and strikes against the government are expected to continue, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

The movement demanding the Prime Minister's resignation began months ago, as a student boycott that spread across the country's three main Universities.  Last month, after police overreacted and opened fire on students marching to the Prime Minister's office, the unrest spread to public employees, including port workers and, most importantly, pilots and mechanics who have shut down the national airline.  Yesterday, The National Doctors Association began a slowdown, and vowed to go out on strike altogether next week unless the government rescinds a 30% budget cut.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister O'Neill issued a statement that thanked the people of Papua New Guinea for "their patience and understanding'" and said the vote in parliament had resolved matters "decisively." During the debate last Friday, Governor Kelly Naru, an O'Neill supporter, described those out on strike as veritable domestic terrorists, who he said must answer to the full force of the law.

Correspondents for Radio New Zealand reported that the debate became heated over demands that the prime minister answer to longstanding corruption charges.  MP Ben Micah, who defected to the opposition just a week earlier, shouted to the Prime Minister, "your government is not going to last long, it will collapse."  However, it is safe from another such debate. The PNG constitution bars votes of no confidence in the year running up to an election, which is set for August, 2017.

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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