PNG ministers demand sacking of speaker over parliament vandalism | Pacific Beat

PNG ministers demand sacking of speaker over parliament vandalism

PNG ministers demand sacking of speaker over parliament vandalism

Updated 13 December 2013, 17:36 AEDT

A group of eight Papua New Guinea cabinet ministers have demanded the sacking of the parliamentary speaker, Theo Zurenoc.

This follows the Speaker ordering the removal and partial destruction of carved heads and parts of totem poles at Parliament House, which he says represent evil spirits.

Speaking from Canberra where the ministers are in high level talks with their Australian counterparts, PNG's Public Service Minister Sir Puka Temu says the news is embarrassing to him and his colleagues.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Sir Puka Temu, PNG's Public Service Minister

TEMU: Myself and seven other ministers are in Canberra attending the Ministerial Forum between PNG and Australia. And when we heard that the Speaker had taken such action, we were all very, very disappointed, and the solution as to the reasons why the Speaker had to take that position, based on his own polarised Christian views and position. So we actually SMSed our Honourable Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, to instruct the Speaker to stop doing that and we think it's nonsense, it's very disappointing and it undermines the cultural and traditions of our country upon which many of us have existed for hundreds-of-thousands of years. And for one leader, the head of the Legislature, the Speaker, to undertake an action without any support from Parliament, I mean, we had just finished a parliament session, the November budget session, all we had to do was to seek support from the parliament, as chair of the parliament. He should have said 'look, this is what I'm thinking and I'm seeking the endorsement from the parliament'. I can vouch that all of us would have rejected the request from the Speaker.
HILL: Our understanding is that the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, in fact has ordered him not to proceed with any more of these things, but he's actually gone ahead in defiance of this and cut off the tops of the totem poles in Parliament House itself.
TEMU: Ah, it's unbelievable. These are things that our ancestors have developed over the years in PNG and for one leader, so-called head of Legislature, to take such unilateral action, oh, unbelievable.
HILL: How can the Speaker of Parliament get away with doing this?
TEMU: Society should demand his resignation, he has to go. He cannot bring his unilateral Christian values and impose them on a national icon, which is the centrepiece of our young, vibrant democracy. We want to build another chapel in the parliament or what? And we have this beautiful, beautiful designed constructed House of Parliament which everybody's very proud of. Ah, the only thing that is left is that the Speaker has to step down. I demand, and I will ask the PM. It's unforgivable and the Speaker has done this without consultation and that he has to step aside.
HILL: There has been some support for the Speaker's actions on social media and Facebook pages today and some people are suggesting that these images represented unclean spirits or satanic influence on Parliament and they have to go, and they agree with him.
TEMU: Those are, once again, those are polarised Christian views and we know that's a small proportion of the whole of the Christian Church and it does not represent the entire PNG society. And I am dismayed, disappointed, disillusioned as a leader, and someone who holds high value of our traditional cultures. What I always say is we may be a very young democracy, but our traditions and cultures are older than our democracy. We must therefore protect them and make sure that we pass them from generation-to-generation. And because these are things that are part of the PNG position. PNG has specific values, more than 700 different languages, a large array and range of traditions and culture and beautiful artefacts. Many of them are held in some of the best cultural settings around the world, highly valued, and I'm just baffled by the actions of the Speaker. I mean he would have just asked us in Parliament during the last sitting that this is his opinion. Would he get the endorsement from the Parliament. And I know we would not have given it to him. And I know that this is the beginning of the outcry. I will demand that he step down, because this is unacceptable.

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