12/04/2013 08:16

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Catholic Bishops meet in Madang

Church and government towards a renewed partnership in five areas.

Mining killing women and children in Western Province.

Asylum seekers in Manus should be working.

11 APR 2013.  Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill today declared that all children will have to be in school by 2014. The government will pay their school fees and the families will have to comply or be dealt with by the law. “We believe all children have a right to education”, the Prime minister said while speaking today to the Catholic Bishops of  PNG and Solomon Islands at their Annual General Meeting in Alexishafen, Madang.

Mr. O’Neill also called for a revitalized partnership between government and Churches as the PNG economy grows and more resources become available for services to be delivered to the people.

Common concerns between government and Churches include not only education, but health, public security, fight against corruption, infrastructures, and economic development for local communities; which are the priorities of the present government according to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Archbishop John Ribat MSC of Port Moresby, Chairman of the Catholic Bishops Conference, in his address to Prime Minister O’Neill also called for formal abolition of the death penalty in PNG, a better consultation and respect of Church stand in education and family values, checks and balances in logging and mining practices and special economic zones.

The Prime Minister assured the Bishops that Church workers in partnership programs with the government, such as education and heath, will progressively avail of same and standardized salary levels.

He also acknowledged that environmental problems caused by OK Tedi mine in Western Province is serious, with “women and children dying every day”.

Requested by Arch. Francesco Panfilo SDB of Rabaul, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill agreed to bring together the heads of the Education and Health Departments to work out a new and better balanced partnership practice between Church and government. According to Abp. Panfilo, in the case of Education, three factors are crucial for the Church: appointment of teachers, selection of students, curriculum policies and contents.

Touching on the issue of immigration, Prime Minister O’Neill also signaled a difference in intentions with the Australian government on the issue of asylum seekers in Manus. PNG is willing to have the asylum seekers mingling with the community and for those with skill even to accept jobs while their case is being considered and processed by Australian authorities.

(cbcpngsi.org – giorgiolicini@yahoo.com)