By Rebecca Kuku in Port Moresby
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape has defended the adjournment of Parliament for four months, saying this is for the health and safety of everyone.
He said he was not willing to “sacrifice the health of our elected leaders while at the same time, observe the parliamentary process that can pose an immediate and real danger to our MPs, their staff and families”.
“I have rallied Members of Parliament on either of the House to consider this threat as serious and to ensure that our safety is not compromised,” Marape said.
Parliament was adjourned to August 10 after 42 parliamentary staff and an MP tested positive to covid-19.
This came shortly after the opposition amended its vote-of-no-confidence motion and named former prime minister Peter O’Neill as the alternative prime minister.
Marape said it was incumbent upon the government, with its numbers, to exercise care and responsibility to ensure that MPS were protected from the potential spread of the virus.
“I note that while the [Pandemic] Controller has classified these workers as essential workers for the purpose of the Pandemic Act 2020, the physical risk of a potential outbreak in Parliament can never be underestimated,” he said.
‘About us as human beings’
“This action is in the interest of all who sit in Parliament and all who work there.
“It is not about the government and the opposition; it is about all of us human beings, who are susceptible to the virus.
“We have to be responsible for lives, including the lives of politicians.
“Parliament, in its debate, confronted the loss of the former Member for Kerema to the virus.”
Members of the media queried the necessity of a four-month adjournment, when the incubation period for the coronavirus was two weeks, to which Marape said though the incubation period ends after two weeks that did not stop the spread of the virus.
Rebecca Kuku is a journalist with the PNG Post-Courier.