Pacific News Minute: New Government Takes Shape In Papua New Guinea

Jun 11, 2019

In this image made from video, Papua New Guinea's new Prime Minister James Marape speaks to media after being sworn in, Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The former finance minister Marape has been sworn in as the country's new prime minister, following the resignation of Peter O'Neill last week.
Credit Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP

James Marape, the new prime minster of Papua New Guinea, has placed leading members of the opposition  into key positions in his cabinet. The appointments suggest that the new administration may be serious about reform.

No single issue was more important in the political drama that seized Port Moresby for the past few months than the 13 billion dollar Liquified Natural Gas project that now-former prime minister Peter O’Neill signed with the French giant Total.

James Marape, then Mr. O’Neill’s Finance Minister has long been critical of an earlier 19 billion dollar deal with Exxon-Mobil that’s based in his home province, Hela, and he resigned to protest the new agreement. His defection triggered a stampede from the government coalition and after weeks of parliamentary in-fighting — Prime Minister O’Neill resigned, ending almost eight years in office.

With O’Neill finally out, Marape then lead a group of about thirty MPs back into the government coalition, which meant the same old group stayed in power. Even with a new prime minister, analysts wondered about the prospects of real change.  

Then, this week, Marape appointed prominent members of the opposition to key posts — the Ministries of Petroleum and Energy and Police. Both of the new cabinet members were outspoken critics of policies under Peter O’Neill and both now promise reform.

In speeches since he took office, Prime Minister Marape described the economy as bleeding and struggling and vowed to make Papua New Guinea the richest black Christian nation on Earth.

He also vowed to crack down on rampant corruption. But, then again, so did Peter O’Neill when he took office in 2011.