PNG’s Trade War Rhetorics Is Political Posturing
Papua New Guinea’s threat to end trade with Fiji is political posturing on the part of some of its politicians to impress the PNG people before the June general election.
That’s PNG politics. Fiji has been used as a political scapegoat to mask the huge political challenges that Prime Minister Peter O’Neill faces domestically.
Our Trade Minister Faiyaz Koya should not budge to a threat by his PNG counterpart, Richard Maru. The threat is designed to shore up political support at home in PNG. It is good to see Mr Koya stand his ground to protect the integrity of our biosecurity.
While dialogue is encouraged to end the standoff this is a serious issue that should not be compromised by lowering our standards to suit the political machinations of Mr Maru, Mr O’Neill and their colleagues.
We support Mr Koya when he says “the Government will not circumvent our biosecurity laws nor will they bend them.”
He adds Fiji and PNG have the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) agreement which has the facilitation aspect with respect to biosecurity. This is where the matter should be addressed.
But Mr Maru has bypassed the MSG and dealt directly with Fiji. He also threatened that PNG would not sign the new MSG trade agreement with member countries (MSGTA3) and would furthermore, not submit to any agreement that Fiji is a part of. That’s his prerogative.
He adopts a Big Brother attitude, flexes his muscles and holds Fiji to ransom because we export more to them than what they export here.
He accuses Fiji as a “dishonourable country” claiming it has failed to honour trade agreements the two countries signed under the Melanesian Spearhead Group trade agreement in 1998.
PNG is not in a position to say things like that. It just needs to look internally at its own domestic affairs before it can point a finger at Fiji.
Human Rights Watch says in its World Report 2017 that the PNG government has failed to adequately address gender inequality, violence, corruption, or excessive use of force by Police.
PNG’s human rights record came under detailed scrutiny during its periodic review at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In its 687-page World Report 2017, its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries.
For PNG, it says in June 2016, Police opened fire on protesting university students in Port Moresby, wounding 23 people.
“The protesters attempted a march to the national parliament to call for a vote of no confidence in the government of Mr O’Neill. They had been protesting for five weeks demanding Mr O’Neill step down over corruption allegations. Anti-corruption officers have held an arrest warrant for the prime minister on corruption charges since 2014, although a court order has prevented its execution to date.’
It says in PNG, Police abuse, including of children, continues with little accountability even for fatalities and egregious physical abuse.
“Between 2007 and 2014, 1600 complaints of Police abuse were received by the Internal Affairs Directorate with 326 classified as criminal cases. The government has not publicly said how many, if any, of these resulted in criminal convictions of police officers,” it says.
“Corruption and abuse will only end when abusive officials are held responsible for their crimes.”
“Since passing the 2013 Family Protection Act to tackle widespread gender-based violence, there has been no meaningful reduction in the alarming rates of family and gender-based violence. Three years after the act was passed, the legislation has not been implemented. Police respond inadequately, rarely pursuing investigations or criminal charges, and services for victims such as safe houses, counsellors, financial support or legal aid are inadequate.”
Human Rights Watch says despite a law that was lauded when it was passed, the government is failing miserably to protect women and girls from discrimination and family violence.
Last year he survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament. It’s against this backdrop that Mr O’Neill’s government is facing the election. It is hoping that things like this trade row will boost its winning chances.