“Our office is in charge of the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department” explained Minister of State Assisting the Prime Minister, Arnold Marsipal. He was being modest.His office is often in the front line dealing swiftly with problems, implementing decisions and negotiating political settlements.
The Minister is responsible for four constitutional offices, that of Auditor General, Electoral Commission, Boundaries Commission and Ombudsman. He is member of three committees, Infrastructure, Law and Order and Administration. By virtue of recently being appointed Justice Minister he is also a member of the National Security Council.
The Prime Minister delegates responsibility to his Minister of State requiring him to deal with protocol and Foreign Affairs. This has brought Arnold Marsipal into heavy involvement with the South Pacific Forum and with APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Community). On the home front he is looking after the rehabilitation of Bougainville.
The Minister deals with grievances against the government from Papua New Guinea citizens. It may mean dealing with irate leaders of a student demonstration surging outside the building. It may mean calming landowners, angry and frustrated by delays in what they see as rightful compensation. It involves being able to talk in common terms with many different people. It requires tact and high level public relations, especially when dealing with other government departments or ministries. The Minister is ably assisted by a staff of eight including First Secretary, Seri Hegame, who has been a principal political advisor since Independence.
Arnold Marsipal is also Deputy Parliamentary leader of Pangu Party, Member of Parliament representing the Islands and a member of the Manus Lapan Assembly. He does not find conflict in these roles. “At Independence we had one goal, to be united. Pangu stands for Papua and New Guinea Unite. It is there to serve the people. So am I. I am not interested in a struggle for power. When I discuss matters with the Prime Minister, I address him as a brother, as a citizen, and discuss issues openly and honestly.”
One of Arnold Marsipal’s most trying jobs has been Chair of the Implementation Committee. It looks at all the projects over the last twenty years and asks why they have not been completed. “You can imagine it requires skills and professional officers to sort things out. It really needs a separate division. It gets so complicated. But it does leave the Prime Minister free to deal with policy and with forward planning.”