MICHIGAN, USA - Former prime minister Peter O’Neill seems slow to understand the implications of the reality that he is no longer the leader of Papua New Guinea.
He thinks that when new prime minister James Marape attempts to pass legislation that he disagrees with, that he can tell the untruths he was able to get away with during his seven years in power.
From 2012 until April 2019 Peter O’Neill in large measure controlled what was published in the Post Courier and The National newspapers. In many ways he conducted himself like a dictator, not a prime minister.
At times, when it suited his purposes, he was dishonest. It’s a new ball game now and Mr O’Neill doesn’t like it.
Case in point. On 10 September prime minister Marape communicated to members of parliament that in the last few months of 2019 there would be a reduction in the amount of the annual district services improvement program [DSIP] funds given to each MP.
Instead of K10 million, each MP would receive K8 for the year. Because of the scarcity of funds brought on by Mr O’Neill’s mismanagement of the economy, DSIP and PSIP cuts had to be made.
DSIP and PSIP funds are highly valued by the MPs. They very much appreciate using those funds for development purposes in their districts and provinces.
On the same day Mr Marape announced the cuts, O’Neill expressed his horror that they would be enacted. In The National of 10 September he said:
“This is the only funding that goes directly to our districts and provinces.
“For many years now, through these programs, the districts and provinces have been able to work with communities to deliver services and projects needed by the people.
"Slashing these funds will mean services in healthcare, education, community development and security will go into decline.
“In over seven years in government, we ensured that DSIPs and PSIPs were paid despite the trying economic times.”
A day later, on 11 September, also in The National, Governor Alan Bird of East Sepik Province had something to say on this matter:
“East Sepik Governor Allan Bird has welcomed the government’s call to slash the provincial and district services improvement program (PSIP and DSIP) funds to support a supplementary budget.
“Bird told The National that “at least prime minister James Marape was being honest and not lying about it. For East Sepik, K8 million was cut in 2017, we only got K2 million. Then in 2018, K3 million was cut and we only got K7 million,” he said.
“So this year, it will be cut by K2 million to fund the supplementary budget so we still get K8 million. The good thing is that he (Marape) is honest about it.”
The honesty of Mr Marape and the transparency of Governor Bird is refreshing. Hopefully Peter O’Neill will soon come to grips with the fact that he no longer has a stranglehold on the PNG media.
Mr O’Neill, when you were in power, members of parliament learned that you weren’t to be trusted. Those in the opposition learned the hard way that publicly expressing even the least disagreement with you would cost them K2 million or K4 million in lost DSIP funds.
And now, Mr O’Neill, you have the gall to declare publicly in The National that during your seven years in power you were a prime minister of integrity who consistently paid the full DSIP and PSIP funds, even during times of economic uncertainty.
All members of parliament know you are dishonest. Day by day, week by week, month by month, you are losing credibility. The end of your political career is not far away.