PNG PM Marape slams researchers


Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has slammed the PNG Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) for failing to study the Covid-19 pandemic in relation to Papua New Guinean immunology since the outbreak in 2020.

Speaking at a National Control Centre (NCC) in Port Moresby last Thursday, Marape told leading health practitioners that he was greatly “discouraged” by the inaction, lax attitude and lack of innovation shown by the country’s leading medical research facility.

“PNGIMR, I am yet to see a good, complete submission from you that says I want to do research,” he said.

To make his point, Marape highlighted the case of a Covid-19-infected woman in Eastern Highlands’ Asaro in which she had a pre-existing condition of living with HIV/AIDS but finally tested negative to the coronavirus, and how no one did anything to find out more about her perplexing case.

“That lady, living with HIV/AIDS, had low immunity and dependent on anti-retroviral.

“She was a candidate for death!
“Despite her low immunity, she tested negative to the Covid-19 14 days later.

“That should have triggered something in the mind of you scientists.

“Yet, PNGIMR saw this as just another case! No innovation. No motivation. No excitement in the space of research and science!

“Do you need the Prime Minister to tell you what to do? Your country is blessed with six per cent of the world’s bio-diversity.

“Someone should be going out there to find out why our ancestors lived through malaria, lived with snakebite?

“Sometimes I think maybe I am wasting my time up front.

“I may be talking something 10, 15 years down the line and you people are not getting it,” he said.

Marape said research was always needed and welcomed but researchers must come forward, state their case and justify the budget for it to receive the needed funding.

“No one stops the Health Department, medical researchers or any one of you from conducting research.

“Every good organisation has a strong element of research unit.

“Someone out there needs to step up and do it without being directed.

“When certain academics come to do research on their own, we accuse them for their initiatives.

“But our mindset must be frontier-breaking.

“We are now taking vaccines that are being developed by other human beings like you,” he added.

He said the Government was available to assist research and promote innovation but researchers must push for the money.

For the new plans to integrate Covid-19 response into the health system, Marape invited the Health Department to also include Covid-19 research into its submission.