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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape says the National Executive Council (NEC) process of engaging a Papua New Guinean company to find a cure for Covid-19 is not yet complete.
He said this in response to allegations of impropriety and corruption on the part of his government in relation to awarding of a K10.2 million contract to Niugini BioMed Ltd.
Leaked NEC documents were reported on the front page of the Post-Courier and went viral on social media.
Marape was disappointed that confidential State information was leaked to the media in what he said was a deliberate attempt to discredit his government.
“Our Cabinet process to engage Niugini BioMed Ltd is not yet complete,” he said.
“But here, you have an agent of opposition running loose within government systems, siphoning off confidential documents and leaking them to media to make inferences of impropriety and corruption.
“I commend Post-Courier for maintaining a higher level of investigative reporting under my tenure as Prime Minister, contrary to the eight lost years from 2011 to 2019, when the media was controlled with late night calls and threats to editors and managers.
“However, the manner in which the newspaper gained access to a confidential NEC paper is suspicious.”
Marape stressed that there was nothing illegal or improper about engaging PNG chemists, biologists and doctors to research into possible vaccines for Covid-19.
“There is nothing illegal or improper about their possible engagement,” he said.
“We have young and competent PNG scientists, who have presented their case to Covid-19 Controller David Manning and our medical and science community that they may be on to something big.
“It may be true, or vice-versa, but I am not a Prime Minister to kill ingenuity, research, science and study.
“We are a nation of huge biodiversity, in fact, with five to seven per cent of the world’s biodiversity.
“Our ancestors lived with malaria, snake bites and all manner of tropical diseases.
“I am certain that we can find new medicines, amidst all this biodiversity, in our Blessed land.”
Marape urged PNG doctors and scientists, including those at the PNG Institute of Medical Research, to do more research.
“Let us embrace research and science, not only for academic exercise, but for economic gain as well,” he said.
“Look at the tiny nation of Israel which has more patents per capita than all countries globally. That’s why they are also an economic powerhouse.
“To my critics; don’t think I am stupid. I know exactly what I want to do for my country.”
He further said that there was nothing illegal about the process taken.
“We will support those who want to do research.
“I will not stop them, I will support them, through the proper processes – that was the essence of the NEC paper,” he said.
“A full announcement on this will be made when the entire Cabinet process is complete.
“However, I make this statement when all sorts on inferences are made from documents stolen by shadowy figures for their political masters,” PM Marape said.
Meanwhile, PNG leader of the opposition, Belden Namah has warned that Papua New Guineans are not guinea pigs to be used in Prime Minister James Marape’s miracle cure for Covid-19.
He advised his lawyers to file a stay application to pay K10.2 million(US$2.8 million) until the substantive case challenging the legality of the Pandemic Act is settled by the courts.
Namah called on Marape to explain newspaper reports that he and a group of PNG scientists are about to launch.
“Can the Prime Minister tell us which laboratory has had the vaccine tested and who is the lead scientist?” Namah asked.
“I hope and pray that the Post-Courier newspaper account of Marape allocating K10.2 million(US$2.8 million) for a Covid-19 cure drug is incorrect in its entirety.
“I warned people not to be used as guinea pigs for this Prime Minister’s cure for Covid-19.
“While the world’s pharmaceutical giants and brightest scientific brains are racing against time to find a vaccine, PNG suddenly announces that it might have one at the cost of K10.2 million.
“I do not belittle our own scientists but if they are onto something, this is way too early to announce a miracle cure.”
Namah said this does not sound to be some drug that has been manufactured by this group.
“It sounds to me like this company is about to make a medicinal prescription of a concoction of available drugs,” he said.
“How is that different from what we are getting at the hospitals. If the group has isolated certain drugs it finds is suitable, has it performed lab tests to verify its effectiveness and that it will not be harmful to Papua New Guineans?”
Namah said it seems clear that many government ministers approached by the newspaper and people in the Health Department and the National Procurement Commission do not have any faith in this deal.
“Our people are faced with grave danger and this is hope proffered by their Prime Minister. This is scandalous and the height of irresponsibility. It is a cultist mentality. We will be a laughing stock of the world.”
Namah said this after Post-Courier reported that Cabinet has approved K10.2 million and awarded to a company, established a month ago in PNG for a Covid-19 cure.
The company, according to the Prime Minister will mix a new miracle drug that will save people in PNG and around the world from Covid-19.
In another development, one of PNG’s senior medical researchers and the former director of the PNG Institute of Medical Research Professor Peter Siba said the medical and scientific team claiming to find a treatment for Covid-19 “is a fuss and will never happen”.
Prof Siba, the country’s senior virologist and now director for the centre for health research and diagnostic centre at Divine Word University in Madang, said that the process of finding a cure for any diseases is a very long process that requires established medical testing sites and processes.
He said like all drugs, the Covid-19 cure must be trialed first and then it must also be given medical and scientific clearance.
He added that the cure must be vetted and approved by the ethical and the medial professional organisations and it should not be given a blessing based on a presentation before a group of key ministers of government that have no medical and scientific background.
The senior researcher said there must also be a medical clearance given by the Medical and Scientific Advisory committee and should be presented to and in front of specialist medical and scientific forum and not an overnight process as claimed by the group from NiuginiBioMed Limited, a group that was registered and formed in August this year.
He said so much money is being parked into Covid-19 and the K10.2 million (US$2.8 million) is a lot of money to be given to a small organisation that formed overnight when that kind of money should have been publicly tendered for the medical research organisations to bid for to research into the treatment.
“We have the organisation with the facilities and expertise to do it. However unknown group raises a lot of question of credential. I do not see any influential and well-known researchers on the board. How long have they been in the research field and what testing and research sites and facilities do they have?” he asked.
Prof Siba said the best way forward is for the government to put out the K10 million on tender and have established research organisation that have the facilities, the testing sites, the partnership and collaboration with international organisation and international reputation to bid and find the cure.
“This is an unknown group (NiuginiBioMed Limited) that popped up overnight. It is a laughing stock and outsiders will laugh at us. We should have used reputable organisations that have collaboration and partnership like the Institute of Medical Research and the UPNG medical School. “As a senior medical researcher I see this as a total fuss, and it will never happen and it’s a waste of big money on an unknown group that popped up overnight,” he said.
He said the intention is good but we should do it properly and get the government to support it.
SOURCE: POST COURIER.PACNEWS
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