Timothy Bonga says there is widespread outrage at the removal and partial destruction of several wooden carvings and the tops of several totem poles on the current Speaker;'s order, on the grounds that they represented evil spiritual influences. Mr Bonga says Mr Zurenoc's actions have outraged most MPs, and he expects his removal will be the first item on the agenda of parliament when it resumes again in the new year.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Former speaker of the PNG Parliament, Timothy Bonga
BONGA: I think the Speaker's action is totally unjustified, him being the Chairman of the House Committee, does not give him that exclusive right to make a decision about the parliament noting the decision of the House Committee, because it has something to do with the whole building that you are removing part of the building which is totally out of his jurisdiction and part way in terms of our culture like it's fatal. All that together does not give the Speaker that exclusive right to make a one man decision.
HILL: The Speaker's critical of these carved heads of the lintel and the totem poles. He says they're focus for evil spirits. What do they actually represent?
BONGA: The carving behind the Speaker's chair was carved by a local artist from Mundai and it was war canoe and part of the canoe that balances the canoe that balances the chair, the parliament, the Speaker's Chair being neutral. So I don't see any evilness about it. It is our culture of having that sign that to show that the Speaker must be neutral and he must be able to balance the House as to how they debate and the issues of Parliament that the Speaker is the member that controls the House and balances the debate and ensures that every person or every member of parliament debates freely in the House. That alone does not show any of the evilness, so those other carvings resembles the culture from various areas of Papua New Guinea, in anywhere like the customs that we have. We have carvings from those areas that dates back to our symbol of our clan or our culture that at that time we, people believe that those were the spirit of our people at that time.
HILL: Well, we've spoken to a prominent Christian pastor in PNG, one of many who support the Speaker's actions who says that's precisely the problem. He says these represent the old animistic beliefs which he says should be replaced by Christianity. Clearly there's a number of people who support what the Speaker did for religious reasons?
BONGA: The number of people who supported the Speaker through a religious group. We have a freedom of religion constitution that allows anybody to even a Hinduism, Buddhism or any religion at all. So long as they have a Christian ethic. Now I'm a Christian, I'm a Lutheran. I do not see any of those buildings or the totem in the parliament as evil as what the pastors are printing. We respect the parliament as the House of the people and the cultures of these people must, you have anywhere in the world, societies in the world that must maintain their culture and tradition and that's got nothing to do with Christianity. We believe in the faith of God and we believe in God and we don't believe in those carvings or anything. It's a tradition, the culture that our people have had in the past. We just have it that to show that we now interested. They feel that that has been part of them from the time of they're age. So really, I don't know why the past system. When the house was open, when I came in as a Speaker, we have everyday, we have parliament session, we open it up with a prayer. I never saw Australian Parliament open up with a prayer, but I do. It's part of the standing orders that every morning, there's a prayer before we go and we don't pray to those open. We pray to God. So I don't know what the Speaker has got into, but the Speaker has changed religion so many times. I don't know whether it's those carvings or it's him that's gone mad.