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The opposition group in Papua New Guinea’s Parliament staged a walkout yesterday after a fiery exchange, amid an ongoing political ruckus in the country.

The walkout happened after the Acting Speaker suspended standing orders and put forward a motion for a vote of confidence in Prime Minister James Marape.

The opposition, which is in the process of mounting a leadership challenge, objected and stormed out once it became clear that Acting Speaker Koni Iguan was going ahead with the vote.

The vote of confidence in the Prime Minister was passed 84-0 while opposition MPs were not in the House.

RNZ Pacific PNG correspondent Scott Waide called the move “simple psychological powerplay” as it haD no bearing on the vote of no confidence lodged earlier this week by the opposition.

He said the vote of confidence caused confusion for some people watching yesterday’s Parliament livestream.

Papua New Guinea parliament in session on 15 February 2024.
Papua New Guinea’s Parliament in session on 15 February 2024. Image: Loop PNG screencapture RNZ

Iguan said the private business committee that was looking over the motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister had found one defect in the submission.

Iguan said the committee asked the opposition to correct one point.

He said they had since submitted “a new notice” for deliberation.

The Acting Speaker said the committee would consider the updated motion in its next meeting.

Later, the opposition returned to the chamber and debate continued on a bill proposing to amend the Constitution to declare Papua New Guinea a Christian country.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape
PNG Prime Minister James Marape . . . won a surprise confidence vote while the opposition staged a walkout on Thursday. Image: Loop PNG screenscapture RNZ

Christian state bill
A bill proposing to make Papua New Guinea a Christian state passed its first reading during the same session with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of the constitutional change.

This is just the first step in the process with a second vote expected to take place in around two months time and a third and final vote after that.

RNZ correspondent Waide said there had already been a fierce pushback.

“The Catholic Bishops Conference has come out saying that this . . . the proposed changes to the Constitution are a bad idea,” he said.

“And it’s not wise to proceed not wise for public money to proceed with changes to the Constitution because it could create problems that we can’t foresee at the moment.”

Waide said this did not have anything to do with the upcoming visit by the Pope, rather it was something Marape had been pushing for.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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