By Michael Challinger (Post Courier PNG).
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, today responded to the accusation there was a cover up in the purchase of 40 Maserati Quattroporte sedans luxury vehicles for APEC.
The government last night defended a series of backlash domestic and international reports of the purchase of 40 Maserati executive vehicles from Milan, Italy, by the APEC PNG Authority.
The outspoken Australian politician Pauline Hanson had led the opposition to the purchase calling on Australia to withdraw its aid to PNG alleging that the PNG government despite receiving aid from Australia could still afford K40 million Maseratis to use for APEC Leaders’ Summit next month.
But Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last night stressed that there was nothing secret in the purchase or APEC operations.
He confirmed the executive vehicles were bought and would be sold to the private sector straight after the APEC Leaders’ Summit and put out on public tender.
The Australian newspaper and other international media went viral about the purchase accusing the Government of getting its priority all wrong, singling out the recent polio outbreak and others.
Local MPs have jumped on the bandwagon, now setting up a group to rally a nationwide strike calling for the Government to tell the truth on the latter.
Led by Sir Mekere Morauta, Northern Governor Gary Juffa, East Sepik Governor Allan Bird and Madang Open MP Bryan Kramer, they have called a nationwide peaceful stop work on Thursday and Friday.
Last night also Christopher Hawkins APEC 2018, Papua New Guinea chief executive officer, defended that the figure that has been widely publicised has been totally inflated and that most information put out on international media were not factual and fake news.
“With due respect, it would be advisable for Senator Hanson to research before speaking,” Mr Hawkins said.
“The cars being used for APEC will be purchased by the private sector so there is no cost to Government and have absolutely nothing to do with foreign support.
“I do not know how we can make it any simpler for the Senator to understand.
“As to the price, she is using imaginary inflated figures. This is creating fake news.” Minister for APEC Justin Tkatechenko, away overseas on duty also defended that information disseminated widely was not true and that Pauline Hanson’s outburst was a total disgrace.The cars were flown in from Milan on two Boeing 747-8F charter planes last week, with the costs covered by “the private sector”, according to Mr Tkatchenko.
“Maserati Quattroporte sedans have been secured and delivered, and are being committed to be paid for by the private sector,” he said.
“Having vehicles paid for by the private sector is the smartest way to have use of the vehicles for APEC at no overall cost to the state.”
Typical PNG Road
Tkatchenko dismissed the backlash, saying the government had only paid a deposit – believed to be about K40m – for the cars, which would be reimbursed by private citizens who had expressed interest in buying them after APEC.
The Maserati Quattroporte which arrived by plane last week are the first to be imported to PNG and sells for more than US$100,000 each (K315,000). They will be used by foreign leaders during the week of APEC.
According to broadcaster BBC at the weekend, recent APEC hosts have also procured fleets of luxury vehicles to ferry around leaders. In 2015, BMW sponsored more than 200 vehicles for the summit hosted by the Philippines and the cars were later sold to the public.