Prime Ministers Media Releases

PM MARAPE SAYS PNG MUST REFINE AND MINT ITS GOLD AND ADD VALUE TO ITS RESOURCES

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says his Pangu Pati-led Government’s vision to build a gold refinery and mint factory in the country is a bold move in the right direction to take back more from our gold resources and reserves.
 
 It also includes having a gold bullion bank into the future.
 
PM Marape was responding to questions from Opposition Leader, Belden Namah, on the full details of the signing of a proposed PNG Gold Refinery and Mint Factory and accusations of him selling PNG gold rights.
 
He said of all the natural resources PNG was blessed with, gold was the highest-valued asset  in the country, and a secure form of bankable commodity that PNG could use to secure its economy from economic shocks. 
 
PM Marape said since the 1800s, gold was harvested in the country, and the country had been exporting gold since but  never saw and or knew how much gold was produced in country.
 
The Prime Minister said he was stepping into a new frontier where past governments, leaders, and prime ministers had never trod: to take back more for our gold through downstream processing which would add value to our economy.
 
He told Parliament that the proponents of the PNG gold refinery and mint factory and the Government had signed an agreement for the business, but the deal was a work in progress, not final, and open to scrutiny to any suggestions for improvements so as not to harm the national interest.
 
“The agreement that we have  signed with the proponents of the proposed PNG Gold Refinery and Mint Factory can be relooked at if it is not in the best interest of our country and nation, " PM Marape said. 
 
“We do not owe a bar of soap to the proponents. 
 
" They have been pushing this proposal in the last eight to nine years through past governments and ministers. 
 
"The former Prime Minister’ Cabinet approved the project in 2014 through NEC Decision 297/2014, and my Government has reviewed this to get better benefits.
 
“The former Prime Minister knows about it. 
 
" They have been going and coming back and forth with their proposal, and they wanted an 80-90-year exclusivity right to mint and refine all gold in PNG and export overseas.
 
" Under the review that my Government put through the State Negotiation Process, we have arrived at a much improved version that includes an equal 50-50 ownership, with Refinery Holdings Ltd putting up the entire capital to construct the refinery and associated business. 
 
"The 50 per cent State equity will  be split between Mineral Resources Development Company for landowners, as well as an option for alluvial miners and Kumul Minerals
 
"Contrary to what many speculate, the agreement is for a 30-year period with another option of extending for another 30 years, and in all material time State has option of paying the investor partner out.
 
“All our normal State processes, including State Solicitor clearances, were done, hence, NEC processed the submissions. 
 
"We are now allowing industry and stakeholder consultation, and a review on what we are doing so we get it right in this direction we are moving." 
 
PM Marape also instructed the proponents to ensure that they were fully-linked and compliant to  world gold industry bench-markers like the London Gold Bullion Association and their market rules.
 
“Government intention is correct, as this will link to international benchmark for gold bullion and refinery trade, and this is the right and first step in that direction that we are taking,"he said. 
 
“The agreement we have signed is not the final document, but continual due process will take its course, including consultations with gold industry stakeholders. 
 
" This includes  big operators and our small alluvial operators, so that our intention to downstream our gold adds value to both their business and our economy. 
 
“I give my country my assurance that we will not sell and sign off our country’s birthright. 
 
"We do not owe a bar of soap to the proponents, and if there is  room for improvements in the agreement in our national interest, then those improvements will be made.
 
“We can review the agreement and or any agreements we have signed if it is not consistent in law, it is only the 10  Commandments that you don’t change. 
 
"But as far as the advice that Cabinet and my Office received, all due process were complied with thus far, and we are now consulting for the legislation to be promulgated to embrace this venture."
 
PM Marape appointed a committee of leaders to headed by Governors Gary Juffa and Dr William Tongamp, Hon. Don Polye and Hon. Manasseh Makiba to go through what was agreed to ensure national interest was secured.
 
He also met the Chamber of Mining today,  led by Mr Richard Kassman, on this matter and gave assurance that this proposal would not be rushed through without stakeholder consultation. 
 
"This is because the industry must appreciate the shift in my Government’s focus towards downstream processing of raw resources and for export of finished products," PM Marape said. 
 
“My stand is very clear, and as the Prime Minister, we want to add value to the benefits from our resources like gold, oil, gas and others. 
 
" Our industries must now realise that downstream processing of resources will be the way of business for us in PNG, and gold is no exception.
 
“All stakeholders will be consulted and their views taken on board, and review the agreement to add value to our gold resources. "

PM MARAPE REITERATES THAT VACCINATION IS ‘NOT MANDATORY’

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape stated in Parliament today that vaccination is “not mandatory” for the people of Papua New Guinea.
 
He said this in response to a petition to Government yesterday calling for no vaccination, no mandatory vaccination and for the Pandemic Act to be done away with.
 
A debate then ensued with most MPs, including those in Opposition, supporting and commending PM Marape for the way he was handling COVID-19.
 
PM Marape also stated that the “no jab, no job” policy of the private sector was not one of his Government.
 
“I want to make it clear again that vaccination is not mandatory in our country,” he said.
 
“How many times will we stand here and repeat that vaccination is not mandatory?”
 
“We have not made vaccination mandatory since Day 1.
 
“I want to tell everyone in the country: Do not listen to misinformation that vaccination is mandatory, in as far as Government policy is concerned.
 
“We respect our people’s right to freedom of choice, especially when it comes to sensitive matters like this.”
 
PM Marape said vaccination was mandatory in other countries, such as Fiji, where over 80 per cent of people had been vaccinated and was now opening up to the world.
 
“We have not made vaccination mandatory, but we have made vaccination available to whoever wants to receive it,” he said.
 
“That policy still stands, so what some people are saying that vaccination is mandatory is not true.”
 
PM Marape said the Government was closely monitoring yesterday’s protest march to find out who was behind it.
 
He said Parliamentary standing orders do not allow for Parliament to respond to ultimatums given by protestors, like yesterday’s organisers, who gave 48 hours for Government to respond. 
 
PM Marape said hid response was made to clarify confusion  and misinformation. 
 
Whilst making response on the 'no jab, no job' and vaccination issues , PM Marape said leaders of these groups are most welcome to go to National Control Centre (NCC) "to get to know what exactly we are doing for in as far as COVID-19 fight is concerned going forward" .  
 
PM Marape said Police could have not allowed yesterday’s protest to go ahead, “ because we have to be aware that such crowd gatherings allow the spread of COVID-19”.
 
He said the protest was led by a few prominent NGOs who had a long association with politicians, and suggested that instead of such, they could give their suggestions to the NCC which was open 24/7.
 
PM Marape said while his Government supported work place safety, the “no jab, no job” policy was one of the private sector.
 
“However, we now have a new work place protocol,” he said.
 
“If there was no pandemic Act, the Controller would not have the power to do this.
 
“Under this new protocol, regular testing of employees would be amongst new measures to allow for those who do not want to vaccinated to be at work unless they are COVID-19 positive."

PRIME MINISTER MARAPE ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF MEMBERS OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON POWER OF MERCY

Prime Minister Hon. James Marape, MP, has officially announced the appointment of distinguished and reputable Members of the Advisory Committee on Power of Mercy as established under the Constitution and the Organic Law on the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy.
 
The Advisory Committee on Power of Mercy is headed by the Chairman and Member for Goroka, Hon. Aiye Tambua, MP. 
 
Cabinet also appointed the following Members to the Committee comprising of:
  1. Christine Copeland - a Lawyer (Law Society);
  2. Dr. Lucy John - a Medical Practitioner with experience in Psychiatry (Health);
  3. Rev. Roger Josep - a Minister of Religion (Community Development); and
  4. Pastor Mollie George - a person with experience in Community Work (Civil Society).
Prime Minister Marape said: “The appointment of Members and Chairperson of the Advisory Committee on Power of Mercy was made by Cabinet for a period of four years, commencing on and from September 1st, 2021; and their membership has been gazetted by the Head of State in the National Gazette No. G656 dated September 28th 2021.
 
“As a requirement under the Organic Law on the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy, at least one of the members of the Committee must be a woman. 
“I am proud to say that my Government has gone one step further by appointing more women than men in the total membership of the Committee, which demonstrates we are adhering to the promotion of the gender equality and empowerment of women in Papua New Guinea.
 
“Moreover, according to the Organic Law on the Advisory Committee on the Power of Mercy, the role of the Committee is to deal with very extreme cases of political concise and common criminals.
 
“In addition, consideration must be given to people who are of old age and in a serious infirmity, or suffering from unsound mind or some other disabilities including those on dead row or life sentences as well as women (mothers) prisoners. This Committee is a very important constitutional institution and my Government has finally approved the re-establishment of the Advisory Committee on Power of Mercy after 11 years of non-action by previous governments.”
 
The Advisory Committee on Power of Mercy comes under the Office of the Prime Minister and the National Executive Council, with Secretariat support provided by NEC Secretary. The Technical Advisory Services is provided by the Department of Justice through the Parole Board Secretariat. 
 
Prime Minister Marape said: “The re-establishment of the Advisory Committee on Power of Mercy after 11 years is my Government’s commitment to the institutional governance, accountability and transparency. The establishment of such committee completes the criminal justice system from the point of:  
  1. arrest to imprisonment; 
  2. release on parole;
  3. release on licence; and 
  4. release under Power of Mercy Committee.”
“Furthermore, my Government recognizes that many of these people are still entitled to the protection of number of human rights enjoyed by persons deprived of their liberty by order of a court of law. And my Government is adhering to these universal rights and freedoms by acknowledging the ‘power’of humanity of giving deserving people in our communities a ‘second chance’ to become effective members of our wider society.
 
“Such decision would send a good signal to the international community that we are complying with the international norms and conventions on universal rights and freedoms.  At the same time, we are telling them that our criminal justice system, especially the correction and rehabilitation of prisoners, is working and their rights and freedoms under the Constitution are preserved and can be granted to these deserving people if they behave well by serving their time lawfully and transforming their lives accordingly.
 
“I am therefore making this important announcement to the nation on the operationalization of this very critical constitutional institution so that the Committee can convene their first meeting forthwith.”

RESCUE, REFORMS UNDERWAY FOR PNG POWER; PM MARAPE REASSURES

PNG Power is riddled with so much accumulative problems that have made it a “sick organisation”, but reforms are currently underway, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape says.
 
These include the installation of its full board, and a restructure of the company to separate power generation, transmission, and retail business.
 
In addition, the Government is also sourcing additional funding to recapitalize many State-Owned Enterprises including a $250million ADB facility, part of which should rescue the power company. 
 
Prime Minister Marape said this as he explained PNG Power's situation in light of the continuous power outages Port Moresby has been facing lately. He was responding to the Member for Abau Sir Puka Temu in Parliament today.
 
Sir Puka brought to the attention of Parliament PNG Power concerns and asked for a response from the Prime Minister.
 
Areas he raised was the need for a board to manage the power authority, the need for an immediate audit of power infrastructure, a request for a provision of K70 million in the 2022 budget to cater for PNG Power, the loss of revenue up to K25million a month through power theft, and a call to connect power to Central province town, Kwikila, so power could be extended to his electorate of Abau.
 
On the issue of putting in place a board for PNG Power, PM Marape said two positions were still needing to be filled and the Government was looking into this, including the audit of PNG Power infrastructure.
 
The Prime Minister said the debts, outstanding arrears and contracts have accumulated so much over time that it has taken the Government well over K2 billion to clear the debts including a K105 million that was paid to PNG power for state bills that has accumulated over many years.
 
“These organisations (PNG Power, Water PNG, Telikom and Air Niugini) are operating at a loss. Almost half, if not 60-70 percent, of our users are not very good paying users,” said the Prime Minister.
 
“These are the inherent weaknesses that we have inherited and taken in. We have tried our best to clean the debts.
 
“We are giving support to these SOEs. Despite the weaknesses that they carry, they still remain focused in contributing to serve our country.”
 
PM Marape said in the last 3 years, NiuPower has come on board and with Dirio is supplying Central and NCD with up to 27 megawatt.
 
“There are teething issues as far as step up – the uplift of the power and feed  into the grid. There is no connectivity to Moresby because the current connection from the existing generation site where Dirio and NiuPower are existing side by side can only uplift what is being generated by Exxon Mobil and NiuPower.
 
“The latest bout of blackouts are from the fact that NiuPower has had to switch off supply for non-payments of bills for the last four years. I have asked them to not switch power off again.”
 
But PM Marape gave the reassurance that the $250 million ADB program was coming soon for all State Owned Enterprises and “PNG Power will receive a substantial amount of allocation to make big intervention”.
 
He also gave the assurance that the SOE ministry would be making some big announcements in this area, including new boards and a new direction for the power body.
 
For the power connection to Kwikila, the Prime Minister said the Connect PNG program will carry through the Milne Bay-Central road link which will have on its back power connection facilities to also supply Abau electorate and those in the Central province.