PNG's new Speaker to restore 'evil' carvings at Parliament House

PNG's new Speaker to restore 'evil' carvings at Parliament House

PNG's new Speaker to restore 'evil' carvings at Parliament House

Updated 18 October 2017, 18:20 AEDT

Papua New Guinea's new Speaker says priceless carvings that were damaged and removed from Parliament House by his predecessor to cleanse evil spirits will be restored.

Papua New Guinea's new Speaker has said priceless carvings that were damaged and removed from Parliament House by his predecessor to cleanse evil spirits will be restored.

Job Pomat said he would abide by a court order requiring the restoration of the 10-metre totem pole in parliament's Grand Hall, and a carving of 19 traditional masks that formed the lintel over the entrance.

"The courts decision was made on the 30th of May 2016 but parliament wasn't aware. We found out last week. We will now restore the artefacts," he said.

Back in 2013, without warning, then speaker Theo Zurenuoc ordered the carvings be pulled down and destroyed.

A devout evangelical Christian, he said they were "evil" and "ungodly" and their removal would cleanse parliament of evil spirits.

A public outcry forced the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to intervene and the work was stopped but not before the masks were destroyed and large pieces of the totem were cut off with chainsaws.

Several prominent Papua New Guineans, including the country's founding Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, took Mr Zurenuoc to the National Court.

The court ruled his actions were unconstitutional and ordered the carvings be restored.

But Parliament Counsel Richard Whitchurch says the restoration project will not be easy because some of the master carvers who made the pieces have died.

"We'll have to look into Milne Bay and the East Sepik to find master carvers," he said.

"The National Museum will be in charge of that.

"Then we'd have to fly them into Port Moresby.

"It's going to be a mammoth task."

Meanwhile, Mr Pomat said he is still examining Mr Zurenuoc's plan to install what he called a "Pillar of Unity" in the Grand Hall.

Resembling a large candle, it was to have a flame at the top and "The Word of God" inscribed in the base.

Mr Pomat said the most important consideration is how much of taxpayers' money will be required to install it.