THE termination of eight national pilots by their employer, Air Niugini, for allegedly participating in a politically-motivated stop-work in July has been labeled as “retaliation and suppression of human rights by the government”.
Opposition Leader Don Polye said he was concerned with the manner in which the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his government were engaged in a witch-hunt to suppress those who stood up to protect the country’s rule of law, institutions, democracy and to fight corruption.
“These pilots were among the students and citizens have expressed their rights to dissent as provided for in our Constitution,” he said.
“The termination by the CEO of Air Niugini is not in the best interest of the country and that is it an assault on democracy and our Constitution.”
Mr Polye denied the Opposition incited them or funded them, saying the company’s justification to terminate them is what he described as ‘absolute lie to make its irresponsible action look genuine.’
“We have seen the students from the University of PNG paying the price for standing up for what is right and just,” he said.
“Now the pilots have followed suit. We will not be surprised to see more is looming.”
He warned the country once renowned for freedoms of speech and expression has now deviated into a path which he branded as ‘kleptocratic.’
He said said those who were patriotic had their share of similar fight-backs, citing his predecessor Belden Namah’s leadership tribunal, allegation of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare benefitting from a contractor and his own electoral fraud case.
He said these pilots have cost the taxpayers dearly for their training and that he has called on the CEO and his board to rescind the decision.
“I am afraid it will not only set a bad precedence for the country. It will also cast fear into the minds of those who want to express their dissent against successive governments in the future,” he said.