THE GOVERNMENT of Oro Province, led by Governor Gary Juffa, has been officially restored by Papua New Guinea’s National Court after rival politicians from the ruling People’s National Congress Party (PNC) allegedly attempted to replace Mr Juffa with Ijivitari member David Arore.
Eleven politicians – including PNC members Mr Arore and Delilah Gore – allegedly entered the governor’s office in late October and held a vote of no confidence against the People’s Movement for Change politician.
“Crimes have now been committed…they all held hands and they all went in an act of solidarity to commit a crime,” Mr Juffa told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of the alleged move to replace him.
“After committing a crime they entered illegally and made illegal decision.
“They have broken the gate…basically destroyed public property, wilful damage to public property…they have committed various offences…break and enter and so forth and they entered and held an illegal meeting and they declared themselves a branch of government.
Mr Juffa blamed the backlash against him on his recent strong stance on preventing illegal logging.
“This is not about politics, this is about illegal logging, this is about the rape of our forests,” Mr Juffa said.
“We know that after I cancelled the logging permits and after I stopped the [deals with landowners] suddenly all these things are happening.”
He warned the police force and other authorities that he “[could not restrain his] people anymore” if his authority continued to be questioned.
“The people, the tribesmen, the township, my supporters have restrained themselves – they stood by and watched,” he said.
“They did not react with violence or destroy public property. They did not in any way react in that manner and I was very proud of that.
“I am waiting for the law to be enforced, and if it is not enforced then I am sorry to say I cannot restrain my people any more.
“Right now they are very downhearted and anxious because they thought the law would be enforced.
Mr Arore and Ms Gore’s senior PNC colleagues were quick to distance themselves from the vote of no confidence, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Deputy Leo Dion both releasing statements condemning the actions.
“Neither PNC nor party leader Peter O’Neill had…knowledge or participatory involvement in the political upheaval created internally by Oro politicians and their supporters against governor Gary Juffa,” Mr O’Neill’s chief of staff Isaac Lupari said in November.
“PNC and the Prime Minister respect Governor Juffa as the people-elected and duly mandated governor of Oro.
“The O’Neill-Dion government is doing all in its power and authority to restore normalcy and political stability in the province.
“On behalf of PNG and the Prime Minister I categorically and unreservedly reject all speculation in Oro and on social media that unjustifiably tried to link PNC and the Prime Minister to the illegal move by Ijivitari member David Arore to oust Mr Juffa as the people-elected governor of Oro.”
Mr Dion condemned the actions of what he described as a “disgruntled faction of Provincial Assembly members”
He said he was condemning the actions because they had the potential to “set a bad precedent” and threaten the “unity and security” of the nation.
“In any given situations the national interest and the collective interests of the people are paramount, thus must take priority over others, personal and parochial interests,” he said.
Mr Dion reminded the people of Oro Province that Mr Juffa had a mandate to lead and should be allowed to serve his full term.
“Just like any other governors and political leaders in the country, Garry Juffa was elected by the people of Oro Province through exercising their constitutional rights and freedom of choice to represent them for the full term to deliver services and bring changes,” Mr Dion said.
“Therefore it is only fair and appropriate for the voters themselves to assess performances and judge Garry Juffa upon the completion of his full term as their mandated and legitimate governor.”
Mr Dion said a vote of no confidence must be supported with evidence that the governor was in dereliction of his duties.
“According to the information provided, set legal processes and procedures were not followed when moving the vote of no confidence against Garry Juffa, thus he is still the legitimate governor of the Oro Province,” Mr Dion said.
“The last thing I want to see as the minister responsible is instability, disunity and political infightings that will do nothing good but destabilise the provincial government.
“These will inevitably result in derailing the development process and unnecessarily delaying the effective flow of services to the innocent people of Oro Province who deserve the best from their political leaders.”
Mr Dion warned heads of local level government in Oro Province to remain neutral on the issue and said he was sending a fact-finding team to establish the issues affecting Oro Province.
“In these crucial times I am appealing for calm and urging all the political leaders from the Oro Province to put the differences aside and work together as a team,” he said.
Mr Juffa said he had made a complaint to the police commissioner for police on the scene having “stood by and watched” as the politicians illegally entered his office.
He otherwise dismissed the actions as illegal and non-binding, saying he was answerable only to his constituents.
“I was elected by the entire province to be the governor and there is a simple rule here: he who hires, fires – so the people are the ones who hired me and they are the only ones with the right to fire me,” he said.