Papua New Guinea leaders voice profound concern for landslide victims

Several days after a devastating landslide in the Highlands Province of Enga, Papua New Guinea’s politicians found their voice on Wednesday.

The slip in Yambali village is believed to have killed more than 2000 people, according to Prime Minister James Marape.

There had been little political response since it occurred in the early hours of Friday last week, with MPs distracted by a planned vote of no confidence in Marape.

RNZ Pacific’s PNG correspondent Scott Waide said when the current session of Parliament got properly underway on Wednesday, after an adjournment on day one, the Speaker Job Pomat, using Tok Pisin, effectively scolded MPs for their lack of response to the disaster up to that point.

“He basically said, if he had it his way, he would have suspended the vote of no confidence motion and just allowed everyone to go back to focus on Enga to fix the problem,” Waide said.

Marape did express profound concern for the victims and the people of Enga and announced a budget review to cover support for this disaster and others that have also been due to poor weather.

“Mr Speaker, I want to inform this House that the national government will review our Budget 2024. In our estimation the cost of disaster before the Yambali landslip, the cost hovered around 500 million kina (around NZ$205m).”

Papua New Guinea parliament in session on 15 February 2024.

He said there had been a lot of rain, affecting not only Enga, but Chimbu and Sepik, while places like Milne Bay were experiencing severe drought.

The leader of the opposition Douglas Tumurisea lamented the government’s failure to react immediately.

He called for the relevant agencies to be properly resourced so they could react the moment help was needed, and not wait days until MPs had made a decision.

Another MP, former senior cabinet minister but now opposition MP, Kerenga Kua, spoke of the embarrassment of PNG always relying on foreign agencies and states helping out after disasters because the national government hasn’t got its act together.

Waide spoke of PNG having an big voice on the international stage when it comes to climate change, yet there is a strong disconnect from its efforts at home to do something about it.

“On the ground, there’s a huge disconnect between the actual implementation of proactive strategies to deal with the environment, to deal with the weather. And that has also extended to the disaster and rescue operations and Papua New Guinea’s ability to deal with large scale disasters.”

Meanwhile, the expected vote of no confidence is now not likely this week because a new motion needs to be filed with the Speaker detailing Rainbo Paita as the alternate prime minister, in place of Allan Bird, who was the opposition’s nominee back in February.

The parliamentary session is due to end Friday next week.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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