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By Eleisha Foon, RNZ Pacific senior journalist

Papua New Guinea’s rising voice as opposition candidate for prime minister, East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, has pushed back after addressing recent death threats.

Bird told RNZ Pacific he has declined police protection and is opting to use his own security after his nomination as opposition candidate for prime minister resulted in alleged threats to his personal safety.

“I was informed about 10 days ago of the threats against my life. I’ve heard a few more threats are in fact active,” he said.

“So I thought, probably the best way to declare it would be to put it out in the public domain.”

He said three senior government ministers informed him about the death threats and were no longer contacting him, due to concerns his phone was “being monitored”.

Bird was confident in his security to keep him safe and said whoever was behind the threats had picked on the wrong person.

“My people served with the allied forces in the Second World War. So my grandfather did that. He was uneducated. So picking on me is not a smart thing to do.”

RNZ Pacific has contacted the PNG police for comment after Bird accused authorities of illegally monitoring his phone and looking for dirt to charge and arrest him.

“I have nothing to hide. So, apparently, they haven’t found any dirt.”

PNG riots aftermath
“I do understand that they’re trying to connect me as one of the masterminds behind the Black Wednesday day events in Port Moresby.”

He said it would be “almost impossible because I was out of the country prior to that happening. And then I understand they’re looking now at all my travel allowances, so they’re looking at that to see what they can find.”

Regarding the threats, he said: “I’m not too stressed. These are some of the things you expect in PNG, otherwise you wouldn’t be in PNG.”

Bird said he did not trust the country’s police and declined their offer for protection, opting to use his own personal security instead.

“If things get pretty bad in the capital, I will just go back home. But for now, I’m just keeping a low profile, not really moving around, just restricting movements.”

He addressed sceptics who criticised him for attempting to boost his profile to become PNG’s next prime minister.

Bird said he had accepted the nomination as candidate out of “respect to his colleagues.”

‘Asked by my caucus’
“I didn’t put my hand up. I was asked by my caucus.”

He said, the country needed change, even if it was at the expense of his safety.

“Who wants to run around with security guards all the time?

“Whoever gets into the hot seat, whether it’s me or someone else, in all seriousness and honesty will soon to have to deal with these problems, the problems that are begging for solutions, and these are personal criticisms of Prime Minister Marape.”

He said supporters of the nation’s current leader James Marape lacked proper education and said it was “like a cult following”.

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

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