An ill wind blows in Bougainville

By PNG Echo

A cold political wind is blowing on the islands of Bougainville that’s fuelling a cold war.

This wayward wind, which was downgraded to a tropical breeze at the cessation of hostilities in the bloody civil war on Bougainville at the end of the 1990s, has never been tamed but held in check by a peace agreement signed by most of the warring parties.

The Promise

The car ferry in the capital of Buka - at present, peace reigns
The car ferry in the Bougainvillean capital of Buka – at present, peace reigns

The keystone of the accord was the promised plebiscite for an independent state, to take place within 20 years of the agreement. The promise effectively took the wind out of the sails of the immediate call for independence, just as surely as Federation did similarly to the Republican movement in Australia at the beginning of the 20th Century.

This future vision watered down many Bougainvilleans’ commitment and backing for the Me’ekamui State, (declared during the hostilities by the rebels). Within Me’ekamui dwell the more militant Bougainvillean rebels. Me’ekamui refuses to die.

The possibility of independence without bloodshed was an attractive proposition for many who had lived through the war; who had suffered its deprivations and lost loved ones – as brother fought against brother.

It was the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, analogous with the biblical ‘promised land’ for those that had also suffered the loss and pollution of their precious lands at the hands of foreign interests that were supported by a government who were prepared to sacrifice Bougainville and Bougainvilleans on the altar of national economic interests.

As the twenty-year time frame enters its final years, all the old wounds that the peace agreement managed to stitch together are being torn apart by the same old issues – for they were never resolved, just postponed.

The Panguna copper mine is the single most pressing of those issues and the peace agreement did not address it at all or any of the concerns over mining in Bougainville. The sensitivity of the issue, that had been the catalyst for the civil war, was the elephant in the room that needed to be ignored to effect an agreement – and it was. But, like M’ekamui, it never went away.

Bougainvillean independence and Panguna are irrevocably interlinked

Panguna – to mine or not to mine

A flower blooms in Panguna.
A flower blooms in Panguna.

When the Bougainville rebels shut down Panguna in 1989, it was supplying PNG with 45% of its national export revenue and was the single biggest contributor to the economic viability of the Independent state of Papua New Guinea hence the national government’s interest. It was also the biggest polluter and cause of unrest on the island of Bougainville.

The issues surrounding Panguna were the causal link to the beginning of the hostilities – with the rebels closing the mine and the PNG Defence force being deployed to Bougainville to open the mine – forcibly if necessary. The rebels didn’t budge. There followed, on Bougainville, nine years of war that included a blockade and that pitted the PNG Defence Force against its own people.

Even though the war has been over now for almost 20 years, Panguna has never re-opened, although it’s potential output and profitability remains unchanged. There is wealth in Panguna of unrealised proportions estimated to be in the vicinity of 5 million tonnes of copper and 19 million ounces of gold.

That the mine has been closed for so long is a testimony to just how polarising the issues still are – the mine is considered a jinx.

The author in Panguna
The author in Panguna

I have visited Panguna, it’s eerie: there is a chill in the air that is not explained by the weather, I was glad to leave. Having been there, I can well understand the sentiments of a populace far more prone to the belief in the supernatural than I.

Nevertheless, to expect that it will remain closed is not realistic for if Bougainville opts for independence without reopening Panguna, how will the new State sustain itself?

This notwithstanding, none of the main actors in the cold war that’s developing, many of whom are the mandated leaders of Bougainville, have yet been willing to nail their colours to the mast about the mine’s future. But if there is a Bougainvillean, economic Holy Grail, this is it. Politically, it’s a poison chalice.

Into the fray recently, whipping up the already restless political air currents, has come mining giant Rio Tinto, who had controlling stock in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), the company that worked Panguna copper mine until its forced closure by the rebels in 1989 – BCL still holds the lease although its mining rights were downgraded to that of an exploration licence, after the new Bougainville Mining Laws were enacted in 2014.

In an interesting piece of timing, (why now?) Rio Tinto has gifted all of their shares in BCL: some to the PNG government and some to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG – autonomy being another condition of the peace agreement).

The ‘gift’ has pitted these potential protagonists against each other and managed to seemingly divest Rio Tinto of all further responsibility to clean up their mess.

While the gift of the shares to the ABG comes with all the controversy surrounding Rio Tinto’s stubborn refusal to effect reparations, both it terms of repatriation of the mining site and compensation – the shares gifted to the PNG government have the added controversy of having been gifted to an inappropriate entity.

BCL shares

Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has recognised that the PNG government is not the correct recipient of the BCL shares: that they rightfully belong to Bougainville. In a politically provocative move, he announced he would re-gift these shares to the affected landowners of Panguna but not through their political representatives, the ABG, but directly –there is 17.4% of the company in the offing.

4959874-3x2-340x227
President Momis

President Momis was not amused: the Prime Minister had decided to by-pass the ABG – Momis suggested that the Prime Minister seemed to believe that he knew better than the ABG, saying:

You substitute your view for ours.

Prime Minister O’Neill retaliated by accusing President Momis of playing “petty politics” that undermined the peace agreement.

In reality, the politics are not petty and it would seem that the Prime Minister is himself engaging in politics using a Napoleonic ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. With his action, Mr O’Neill has diluted the power of any one BCL shareholder and denied the ABG a controlling interest.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea

Being an astute politician, O’Neill would be aware that the gift is good public relations for his erstwhile flagging image. It portrays him as a benevolent and generous leader (a Bik Man, if you like) while also ensuring that some time in the future, if the mine is opened under BCL, the PNG Government can form a coalition with one or a few of the other shareholders to gain control (the PNG Government has held a 19% share interest in BCL for many years). Mr O’Neill is a master in the dynamics of coalitions.

For while Mr O’Neill justified his expropriation of OkTedi, as the right of a mandated government acting on behalf of its people, he has denied controlling interest in BCL to the ABG. He can do that because Bougainville is not yet a sovereign state (and may never be).

There are other interested parties that have weighed in on the issue too, not least of all the Minster for Communications in the national government and member for Central Bougainville, Jimmy Miringtoro.

Mp for Central Bougainville - Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro
Mp for Central Bougainville – Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro

In a press statement, Miringtoro attacked the past record of the ABG and, in particular, President Momis whose involvement in the national government goes back to 1972. (Momis was one of the drafters of the PNG constitution).

Miringtoro asserted that, from his position in the national government, Momis

…could have prevented the war if he’d been honest from the start.

The only way for Momis to make peace with the people of Panguna, according to Miringtoro, was to admit that he’d “failed them,” and he recommended that:

… the President cede control of Bougainville to someone who has the energy, commitment and vision to move Bougainville forward instead of wasting time…

The Minister reminded his readers, on two occasions, that he was a mandated leader of Bougainville – seemingly to add weight to his argument. Yet, in spite of the Minister’s stated opinion on the track record of the President, it was just last year that Momis won the Presidential election on Bougainville. It was a landslide victory.

Coming a distant second was former rebel leader, Ismael Toroama who polled 18,466 votes to Momis’ 51,382 – with such a decisive result, so who is really speaking for the people?

Such is the complexity of the Bougainville issues that a simple dichotomy between PNG and Bougainville cannot be taken for granted – for, at present the only position that can be relied upon is that PNG does not want to cede independence to Bougainville – and the irony is that it doesn’t ever have to thanks to that inadequate but temporarily effective peace agreement that gave PNG  a veto

Near Kieta - the theatre of war and of dogged resistance
Near Kieta Harbour – the theatre of war and of dogged resistance

There is, however, no doubt that Momis and O’Neill are jockeying for position as the Supremo of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), especially considering the upcoming plebiscite and the fact that the BCL shares would prove worthless if their mining licence in Panguna is revoked – and it could be, President Momis has already threatened the Prime Minister with this consequence.

Is this a portent of things to come and is Panguna set to become the battleground?

For questions over the future of the mine remain unanswered: should it re-open? If so, when – before the plebiscite or after? …if the plebiscite is successful? …if it’s not? Which company will mine Panguna? What of the shares in BCL …and many other considerations too numerous to mention?

Independence – who wants it?

By 2019, Bougainvilleans will all have to consider this question.

We know what O’Neill thinks but we are, as yet, not aware of the position of President Momis nor of such MPs as the aforementioned Jimmy Miringtoro who may be against Momis but may still favour independence (clearly without Momis) – who knows?

PNGs Hous Tambaran (parliament)
PNGs Hous Tambaran (parliament)

In parliament last week, O’Neill highlighted how the PNG government is helping Bougainville rebuild its infrastructure (as destroyed during the war, I suppose) that he stated was needed far more urgently than independence (I am left wondering why this wasn’t attended to many years ago – is the answer because the plebiscite was not imminent then?) He also highlighted the reforms in education and health taking place on Bougainville thanks to the PNG government.

His one erroneous assertion was that a country with a population of 200,000 (Bougainville) is unlikely to be able to survive because “the economy may not be strong enough.”

Yet, the Bougainvillean copper mine Panguna, once propped up the whole of Papua New Guinea economically, of which O’Neill would be well aware. Without Panguna, in 1976, PNG independence would not have been viable. This single asset is more than able to provide a solid economic basis for a new independent state. The Prime Minister is also well aware of what re-opening of the mine under favourable conditions would mean for Papua New Guinea who still retain 19% share in BCL – and he seems to be trying to force these conditions.

PNG wants to keep Bougainville in the fold
PNG wants to keep Bougainville in the fold

It is, however, reasonable to expect that Mr O’Neill would not want Bougainville to secede – no country or nation willing cedes territory – and it might be equally reasonable to assume that, on the opposite side of the tracks, the ABG would want it – but in that assumption you’d be wrong.

It is not yet known what position the ABG favours, it seems to be sitting back waiting for the best offer – Momis vacillates. At present he is saying that the people will decide, as indeed they will – but leaders should lead from the front, not behind.

If all that is not confusing enough, we have not yet taken into account the other important and major stakeholders in Panguna, the affected landowners who are holding some of the trump cards. Do they want independence and/or the mine to reopen? Well, yes, no and that depends.

The Landowners

The gifting of BCL shares from Rio Tinto and the subsequent re-gifting of them directly from the PNG government has managed to stir up a hornets nest in Bougainville.

President Momis, Prime Minister O'Neill and head of Me'ekamui, Chris Uma - three of the main actors in the current saga
President Momis, Prime Minister O’Neill and head of Me’ekamui, Chris Uma – three of the main actors in the current saga

To resolve the situation, the ABG government called a meeting of all the landowning stakeholders ,on 26th August, with a view to obtaining a consensus that favoured the government’s position.  Momis got it. A resolution was signed by 10 parties including a signature purportedly from the Chief of Chief’s of the Me’ekamui Government of Unity (MGU).

The resolution refused the shares from the PNG government on behalf of the landowners and suggested that they gift them to the ABG instead.

In reality, there was no consensus.

By 28 August, the chairman of one of the affected landowner groups – a group that had signed the resolution, described a social media posting by a chairperson of another group that was a signatory, as being “misleading.”

In the same email he stated that Mr Philip Miriori, President of Me’ekamui did not sign the resolution supporting the ABG’s stance. This notwithstanding, there is a signature above the title ‘MGU Chief of Chiefs’ on the resolution. The signature is too long to be that of Chris Uma, it is otherwise illegible – I don’t know who signed it.

(I am becoming terminally confused about who is the head of Me’eakamui – Philip Miriori, Chris Uma, or this Chief of Chiefs that signed the resolution.)

The original aforementioned chairman finishes his email by saying:

As people mandated [there’s that word again] by our long-suffering Landowners of Panguna…we will not stand by and watch our ABG Government become a monster by convincing our ignorant people by so much sweet talk especially up to date our legacy issues are still evident on the ground.”

The legacy issues

The mine site needs repatriation - there are frequent landslides caused by the giant pit
The mine site needs repatriation – there are frequent landslides caused by the giant pit

The legacy issues consist of the reparation to the Panguna site and/or compensation that is owed for damages. Rio Tinto has not made any, nor has it offered to do so in the future.

Many of the landowners want this issue pursued vigorously.

One leader of a landowner group expressed the view that both the National Government of PNG and Rio Tinto be sued for the environmental damage but in a separate legal opinion I have sighted, addressed to some of the affected landowners, BCL is identified as the correct entity to sue.

How ironic, with this new share transfer/gift, the landowners could be potentially suing themselves and the ABG for damages, if they take up the proffered shares they would own 53% of the company.

Legal opinion to the chairman of a landowner group stated that the divestment of Rio Tinto of its interests in BCL makes the prospect of compensation unlikely and the writer goes on to warn that the share transfer potentially creates a conflict of interests between the ABG and the landowners

The interests of the ABG and the Landowners are not aligned and potentially diverge rather than converge.

Mining is, once again, polarising the people of Bougainville. How this will be resolved is anyone’s guess and throw an independence vote into the fray for good measure and there’s cause for concern.

For while some stakeholders have expressed the opinion that maintaining the peace on Bougainville is the single and most important task of the ABG in Bougainville at present, others have been far more belligerent.

Arms and the rebels
Arms and the rebels

In a recent interview with Radio NZ, John Jaintang, described as a special envoy to Mr Chris Uma the leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, has accused Bougainville’s leaders of breaking the peace process by engaging with Rio Tinto and BCL.  Mr Jaintang says that “the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy.”

Ominously, he goes on to state that Me’ekamui remains “outside the peace process, ” and warns that “Me’ekamui has 100% of the arms.”

In summation

There are many self-confessed mandated leaders in this melee who are refusing to lead. While the minutiae is being attended to, the big picture is being neglected.

How to vote responsibly in the plebiscite, taking into account all of the possible issues, is a vital measure to disseminate and they need to hear it from their government. They know where the national government stands but, to date, they are getting conflicting messages from the ABG.

Yet, coming through loud and clear was the special envoy from Me’ekamui whose point, if I’m not mistaken, in saying that Me’ekamui has all the guns, is that the rest of you had better watch out.

This could well be an ominous threat if O’Neill, on a successful vote of ‘yes’ to independence, decides to exercise the ultimate folly of the peace agreement: the proverbial ‘get out of jail free’ card for the Government of PNG – the right of veto over the decision. In my opinion, O’Neill will not hesitate to use it.

Having said that, clearly a ‘no’ vote would be less problematic for the Government of Papua New Guinea as it would give them the renewed mandate in Bougainville – a clear indication of their right to rule.

And so the ‘courting period’ between PNG and Bougainville intensifies. It’s a period when it’s likely that PNG, like an anxious suitor, will be especially considerate of the needs of Bougainville, even generous.

When and if Bougainville succumbs to seduction and the courting period is over, with no more political leverage left, what then?  Those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

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Moti in Papua New Guinea: Part 1

It’s a sad truth that precious few political scandals in Papua New Guinea reach a satisfactory conclusion: they tend to erupt violently only to soon be forgotten (and often forgiven) as the next crisis or sensation overtakes and overshadows.  It is why PNG Echo has a category ‘Lest we forget’.

However, in true PNG fashion, this category has been overlooked lately as PNG Echo has become swept up with current political events.  It’s time to address that irony by revisiting the Moti Saga.

The Moti Saga caused a serious diplomatic stoush between Australia and countries of the Pacific – most notably the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea – but not only – Fiji and Vanuatu were involved too.

In the ensuing years, myth has overtaken fact and there are many misconceptions about what really happened.

The Journalist...
The Journalist…

My involvement with the Moti case and Julian Moti dates back to 2009 when I first interviewed him – and continues to this day

As a political scientist, I was appalled at his treatment and the egregiously bad behaviour of authorities in many jurisdictions and since the first article there have been dozens more – all revealing what both the Australian authorities and, sadly, the Australian press did not want the public to know.

Three years later, the High Court of Australia agreed with what Moti had always avowed and what I had been trying to disseminate, with varying success, through a reluctant media.

This is what happened in Papua New Guinea.

By Susan Merrell

No one would accuse Julian Moti of being politically naïve. When he accepted the position as Attorney General of the Solomon Islands in 2006 he knew there were powerful opposing forces.

..the Solomon Island's Prime Minister...
…the Solomon Island’s Prime Minister…

None so powerful as the Australian authorities that were having difficulty accepting a change in attitude towards their role in the Solomon Islands brought about by the new Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.

Sogavare had, over time, become increasingly critical of the intervention of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Moti backed Sogavare’s position.

Australia’s best interests would be served by a quick removal of Sogavare and his backers.

So when Moti learned that the Australian Federal Police had begun a new investigation into a charge of sex with a minor (a charge that had been thrown out of a Vanuatu court almost a decade previously – Moti was found to have no case to answer), he braced himself for the ‘smear campaign’.

This was how they would discredit him, he reasoned. It was politics and politics is dirty.

But, even though Moti was in Papua New Guinea on his way to Honiara to advise Sogavare how to defeat a parliamentary motion of ‘no confidence’ against him in September 2006, and though he was aware that the Australians would be hoping that the motion was successful, he still did not foresee what would happen next

Unlawful

It must be nerve racking to arrest a lawyer. Lawyers have an air of arrogance buoyed by the confidence of knowing the law, their rights within those laws and how to exercise them. A wise person would be very sure of their grounds before making such a move.

...the then PNG Deputy Prime Minister.
…the then PNG Deputy Prime Minister…

Moreover, in Papua New Guinea’s international airport on September 29, 2006, it was no ordinary lawyer that was arrested. It was the Attorney General elect of the Solomon Islands, Julian Moti, in transit to Honiara to take up his position.

The now PNG Opposition Leader, Hon Don Polye, in a statement to the PNG parliament (2011) on the Ombudsman’s Commission Report (into the Moti issue) reminded parliament:

Mr. Moti was not an ordinary person. He was the Highest Law Officer of a Sovereign nation. He was the Attorney General of Solomon Islands. He deserved to be treated with decorum and proper protocol of a foreign dignitary.

Polye continued:

MR SPEAKER, not only was Mr. Moti deserving of decorum and protocol, (as we would expect other countries to treat our Attorney General), Mr. Moti was also an International Protected Person under the Convention on the Prevention of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons including Diplomatic Agents 1973 (“the IPP Convention 1973”) to which PNG became a signatory in 2003. Under the IPP Convention PNG was obligated to protect Mr. Moti, who qualified as a “representative or official of a State” and grant him safe passage as the highest ranking law officer of Solomon Islands.

The Arrest, Extraction and Detention of Mr. Moti by our Police, was in breach of our International Law and our International Obligations under both the Chicago Convention 1958 and the IPP Convention 1973.

So where was the Arrest Warrant and why was Moti removed from the transit lounge without the correct immigration documents and visas? It’s questions such as these that lead one to suspect that there were compelling forces at work – even more compelling than the law.

How the arrest was effected.

When Moti arrive in Papua New Guinea, he had been travelling for almost twenty-four hours. It’s no simple matter getting from India (where Moti had been an academic) to the Solomon Islands. He took the quickest route – to Singapore through Papua New Guinea, onto Honiara.

Had Moti known what was in store he may just have chosen the long way round.

...and the Attorney general
…and the Attorney General of the Solomon Islands

For there was a reception committee waiting at the transit lounge of Jackson International Airport. It wasn’t welcoming or befitting Moti’s status.

Step aside,

was the instruction as Moti’s travel documents were handed to an awaiting, unidentified, Australian man. After perusing the documents, the Australian conversed with another Papua New Guinean man who approached Moti. Identifying himself as a police officer with the Transnational Crime Unit, he informed Moti he was under arrest.

Why am I under arrest,

Moti demanded to know.

I don’t know.  My seniors will tell you when they come.

The Police Officer replied.

Where’s the warrant for my arrest,

Moti asked

I don’t have it, it’s with my seniors,

the increasingly rattled policeman responded.

Clearly agitated by Moti’s questions, the police officer waited anxiously for his “seniors.” He knew who Moti was – he was well-aware of his position.

The seniors never did arrive – neither did the Arrest Warrant. And in spite of Moti not having the required documentation to enter Papua New Guinea, he was taken from the airport to a prison cell at Boroko Police Station.

The Machiavellian Australian figure appeared to direct the proceedings, the Papua New Guinean police carried out the orders.

In the Boroko cell.

The cells at the Boroko Police Station are hot and oppressive. There’s no air conditioning.

Squalid habitations for the wretched of the earth,

is how Moti described them.  By this time Moti was indeed wretched.

I remained in a state of shock throughout the day,

wrote Moti of his incarceration.

I had not been given anything to eat or drink. I had never felt so dejected in my entire life. The stench in that cell was overpowering.

Moti became ill and was vomiting. He was having trouble breathing. He had no access to his asthma medicine, which was in his luggage that had been taken off the plane bound for Honiara but had since gone missing.

Moti’s lawyer in Papua New Guinea, Peter Pena, described the condition of the cell as “putrid.” Moreover, the other inmates incarcerated with Moti were being detained for “wilful murder and other serious crimes.”

A more ignominious fate for a high-ranking official of a fellow Melanesian state is hard to imagine, a fact recognised when Moti received a visit from Joseph Assaigo (since deceased).  The Intelligence Branch Chief attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, apologised to Moti for the bad treatment.

By this time it was already afternoon.

Moti had received a copy of the Arrest Warrant mid morning. It had been obtained from the District Court at 9.30 a.m. Moti had been arrested at 5.30 a.m.

Mr. Moti, had in actual fact been arrested, extracted from the International Transit Lounge of the airport and held in police custody for over four hours at the behest, direction and supervision of the Australian Government without even a Warrant of Arrest.

wrote Peter Pena incredulously in his affadavit

Moreover, in the abovementioned statement to parliament, Hon Don Polye admitted Papua New Guinean culpability, stating:

MR SPEAKER, the most important fact that has eluded the media and the public eye for the last five (5) years that I must remind this House is that Mr. Moti has not committed any crime in Papua New Guinea. Mr. Moti did not commit any offence in PNG. Mr. Moti has not broken any law in PNG, either on or before the 29th of September 2006.

MR SPEAKER, there were no charges laid against Mr. Moti at the time of his arrest – for arrest, extraction from the International Lounge [Jacksons Airport] and lock-up. You can’t lock up international transit passengers without any charges. But that’s what we did.”[original emphasis]

Australian Federal Police and RPNGC - in cahoots?
Australian Federal Police and RPNGC

Furthermore, Moti’s lawyers (including, now Acting Judge Danajo Koeget) noted numerous legally questionable premises on which the Warrant of Arrest had relied including an old extradition law that had since been repealed and replaced.

It was clear to Pena and Koeget that this document had been written in indecent haste and with scant regard to the laws of Papua New Guinea.

Nevertheless, and to the lawyers’ astonishment, the magistrate refused to discharge Moti but took it upon himself to grant bail.

So, in spite of Assaigo’s expressed regret at the bad treatment of Moti, the Solomon Islands’ Attorney General elect was left for twelve hours in a prison cell with murderers.

It was a cell that stank of human faeces, urine and sweat. He had not been allowed a shower or a change of clothes.

Ominously, that afternoon, Moti had also been made aware of plans to keep him away from Honiara. If he was to believe Assaigo he had every reason to fear for his life. In Moti’s affidavit to the Queensland Supreme Court he recounts this conversation that occurred at Boroko Police Station:

You watch your back, Moti,

Asaigo warned.

“The stakes are high. You’ll be finished. This whole intervention is making a lot of Aussies very rich. We’ve kicked them out. [most likely talking of the aborted Enhanced Cooperation Program], they’re kicking you and Sogavare out before you guys can kick them out too.”

Late that afternoon, by the time Moti was released on bail, he was shaken and physically ill. The lawyer’s confidence had deserted him. Clearly, the law could not be relied on to keep him safe. He was a marked man.

What happened next?  Stay tuned.

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Laws on Cyber Crime: you asked for it!

By PNG Echo

It’s draconian

went up the plaintive cry in response to the new cyber-crime laws passed by the PNG legislature in parliament yesterday with an overwhelming vote of 73-0.

The anonymous mask favoured by many social media abusers
The anonymous mask favoured by many social media abusers

The moaners are the same people whose illegal and/or immoral activities this legislation had been enacted to curb: the people who abuse social media, Internet and the privilege of free speech in this medium.

As I’ve not yet had the opportunity to peruse the legislation, I can’t comment on whether it is excessively harsh and severe (as the use of the word ‘draconian’ implies), but what it definitely is, is a reaction to gross abuse and it’s been a long time coming.

For if the government can be at all criticised in this matter, it is that it took far too long, allowing the abusers to become comfortable in their relative impunity and leading them to believe that they have a right to the gross abuses they’ve perpetrated that they would never have got away with in any other context.

For example…

If a stranger (or any person, for that matter) came up to me in a public place and started to yell at me profanely and abusively, including issuing death threats and/or threats of sexual violence, s/he would be arrested and locked up – as s/he would if s/he’d done similarly through a letter or via a newspaper or other hard–copy publication – why then should this same person have impunity if s/he does so in cyber space? (An example taken from real life)

This sort of speech is not deemed ‘free’ anywhere else, why should it be so on the Internet?

Then there’s the pornography that daily appears, unsolicited on the computer screens – that’s bad enough, but at least it’s impersonal. When your private messages also get unsolicited and unwelcome photos of genitals, then it becomes personal (also an example taken from real life). I do hope the legislation covers this aberrant practise too. Imagine if this same person displayed his genitals (and it’s always a male) in public or made an unwelcome private display – he’d be headed for jail – but on the Internet it’s OK?

Lately, and going beyond the personal, in PNG there have been people using the social media to mischievously spread lies and rumours.  Indeed, some social media sites in Papua New Guinea brazenly espouse that they will reproduce rumour, break all laws that govern free speech and other laws, such as copyright, at will – and they taunt the authorities to do something about them – well they have.

Indeed, earlier this year when there was a skirmish between the police and protesting students, social media erroneously, mischievously and probably intentionally misreported that police had shot dead four students – they hadn’t – there were no deaths and only a few minor injuries.

ABC-logo1-1The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) through its PNG correspondence reported the supposed deaths and because the ABC is the only news service with a foreign correspondent in country, it was broadcast all over the newswires to the rest of the world.

This was in spite of receiving an accurate report from this writer – they preferred to run with their own correspondent’s incorrect report – if it was on social media and your correspondent says so, it must be true.

For the ABC’s correspondent to have believed such delinquent sources is a clear indication that he had been unduly influenced by the dominant anti-government, social media and become partisan.

For the forces bankrolling the students revolt, they had gotten exactly what they were after – minimal damage and maximum impact – even the United Nations condemned the act and students in far away countries, that probably couldn’t locate PNG on a map, demonstrated. Their cause (and it was political) had received the publicity it was after – they couldn’t have done it without the abuse of social media to spread the lies.

Unfortunately, the damage to the reputation of Papua New Guinea from this episode has, no doubt, been enormous – all thanks to an unregulated medium that has one too many wanton and profligate users.

It’s not enough to say that there were already laws that covered some of the above examples because the laws, as they stood, were difficult, or nigh on impossible to enforce – now it’ll be easier and that’s both good and bad but totally necessary.

And everyone suffers

Being a political commentator that uses the Internet extensively to publish, it is certainly not in my interests for there to be greater regulation on the medium I use.

The threat of defamation is something that writers and journalists live with: an occupational hazard, if you like – and we are only too aware that those with the money to sue, even if they have little chance of success, can be an expensive nuisance. The last thing we need are laws that assist them.

It’s why I’m angry at the abusers of the medium that make it necessary for us to all live with this new set of restrictions.  I dislike and resent enormously that they are necessary for all the reasons I’ve pointed out and some I’ve probably not even considered.

Enclosed bridge - this time to stop the jumpers.
Enclosed bridge – this time to stop the jumpers.

It’s a bit like the bridges over the freeway that have wire cages enclosing them because some idiot thought it fun to throw rocks down on the cars underneath. When these fools caused a fatal accident, something needed to be done – now we’re all caged in.

I profoundly detest living within that cage, just like I abhor living with the newly-enacted laws – yet another metaphoric cage and I blame the irresponsible, low-intellect exploiters that made it necessary – because necessary they are.

So before you violators start pointing your fingers and screaming “draconian” please take a look at your hand and notice that your remaining three fingers are indicating the culprit that made all this necessary.

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Money politics

By PNG Echo

A lawyer from the Western Highlands told me that one of the ingredients in acquiring and maintaining ‘bik man’ status in the Highlands is by displays of generosity: giving away money and goods.

This revelation goes a long way to explaining the prevalence of ‘money politics’ in the national life of Papua New Guinea.

For although, the practice may seem benign and even …well…generous, when there are expectations associated with the gifts – and let’s face it, even in the traditional culture, ‘bik man’ status is an anticipated reward of such generosity, it so easily slips into bribery – the very foundation stone of corruption.

The Political ‘bik man’

In Papua New Guinea, political elections are not won on political ideology, nor on policy but on personal popularity.

Conversely, in Australia, many voters do not know who their local MPs are, or for whom they are voting. In the main, there is little interest in the personalities save for if, and when, they become government ministers (or those that were previously high-profile ministers)

Of more interest are the policies proffered by the parties; the election promises. And remember, we are only talking two main parties and a third minor player, so there is not too much information needed to be absorbed by the voting public.

Then there are many (possibly the majority) who simply vote along ideological lines with the minor party often picking up the vote of those disillusioned with the major parties – all parties have clearly defined political ideologies that inform their policies.

Indeed the beauty (and sometimes the tragedy) of a system which, in the main, works, is that it can be comfortably ignored – not so in a political system that is struggling, like Papua New Guinea.

It’s overwhelming

In Papua New Guinea, with over 50 parties and a plethora of independents set to contest this election, there would neither be enough political ideologies to go around – nor unique policies, for that matter – they start to all sound eerily the same. Health, education, infrastructure, corruption…they’re all going to make it better.

When you have 30 (or more) candidates to choose from in just one electorate, to be familiar with all their policies and ideologies (supposing they had any) would be quite a task .

It’s so much easier to vote for the candidate you like: your brother, your cousin, or the person who’s just given you anything from beer and lamb flaps to a Land Rover vehicle. It’s comfortable and familiar behaviour to slip back into.

And why not?

Would the average PNG voter have any idea who their preferred candidate will support in the government that will be formed? Of course not – the successful candidate will be eagerly awaiting the period known as ‘horse trading’ to accept the greatest amount of largesse offered in exchange for support – the tradition of the ‘bik man’ will prevail.

So, demonstrably, although the Papua New Guinean elections are fashioned on those of a democratic liberal democracy, all the paradigms that make it work in a western context are rejected in favour of a return to the familiar – the generosity of the ‘bik man’ – a practice that is considered venal and corrupt in a democratic liberal democracy.

Maintaining the status quo

Having learned that it takes money to be a ‘bik man’ – it follows that it then takes even more money to maintain the position – and there are many opportunities when you’re in a position of power to rort the system – and many do.

It is often joked that on becoming a Member of Parliament, the new incumbent will put on 100kg in weight and acquire at least three more wives (I’m not sure about husbands!). It’s a comment on the corrupt money that they can expect to come their way.

But here’s the thing – sharing of the spoils does not happen anymore. The ‘bik man’ tradition is thrown out of the window in favour of a western form of individualism – it’s all mine.

Isn’t it wonderful to have the opportunity to move between two distinct realities based on pragmatism and expediency?

The rules of the game

The recent vote of no confidence serves to illustrate how the practice of money politics will and must continue under this system, how the system perpetuates itself:

For with an opposition of a man and his dog, what do you think provided the impetus to collect the 11 signatures needed to table the motion?

And why do you think the opposition were so anxious to be given seven days between the tabling and the vote?

That a considerable amount of money changed hands during that week (and before the tabling) is a no-brainer – but it had to.

The paradigm had been established, the rules of the game entrenched – the side that didn’t play by them surely would have lost. Once the game is on, neither side has much choice if it wants to be the victor.

Equally, those who refuse to play by these established rules during the elections have little chance of success.

Breaking the cycle –

I have heard it often said that the answer to the political woes of Papua New Guinea is to be found at the ballot box – vote in the right candidates.  But that solution is too simplistic – for how do the voters know who that is?

In the main, they have no idea of the candidates’ policies, ideology or allegiances. What’s more, with money politics firmly entrenched many initially altruistic candidates will find themselves unable to perform their duties if they don’t play the established game. Most will succumb to the rules of the game.

There needs to be new rules. There needs to be electoral reform to make it easier for the voter to make his/her choice.

There needs to be a mechanism for restricting candidates – perhaps by severe penalties for candidates who lose badly – by say, more than 10%

There needs to be more onerous requirements of the candidates to elucidate clearly their policies, ideologies and allegiances and some impetus to stick by and enact them.

The lamb flaps, beer and Land Rovers need to stop.  And this is just for a start.

PNG has the people with the intelligence to make amendments to the electoral act that will overcome the entrenched money politics – now all it needs is the will.

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More Fraud Squad cases unravel

By PNG Echo

What do Attorney General, Ano Pala, Aloysius Hamou and Francis Potape have in common?

Hon Francis Potape - the latest case to be overturned through the illegal activities of the Fraud Squad
Hon Francis Potape – the latest case to be overturned through the Fraud Squad’s illegal collection of evidence.

Well, while the recent circus that was the Vote of No Confidence was keeping the whole nation entertained and distracted, in the nation’s courts, the three, abovementioned, gentlemen’s criminal charges were being overturned, quashed, and disallowed.

All three were cases being prosecuted on behalf of the Fraud Squad – featuring Messrs Gitua and Damaru.

These cases have been variously found to be incompetent, ill–conceived, or both as indeed was the case against Justice Sakora – thrown out too.

Lawyer Tiffany Twivey - case still to be heard
Lawyer Tiffany Twivey – case still to be heard

Other Fraud Squad cases still to be decided are that of lawyer Tiffany Twivey, John Mangos of PNG Power and the Prime Minister himself.

Given the precedents of Fraud Squad incompetence and overconfidence in their ability to influence the courts, that these cases should go the same way is more than likely (except if Justice Colin Makail is hearing them, that is)

The Fraud Squad are not conducting legitimate investigations into corruption but overseeing a witch-hunt.

It’s politically strategic

Messrs Damaru and Gitua of the Fraud Squad.
Messrs Damaru and Gitua of the Fraud Squad.

These rogue elements in the police force are aiding and abetting those with a political agenda to effect that agenda, illegitimately, through the courts and these three recent cases illustrate that all too well. See the details here

It’s the premise that those charged with an offence occupying high office should step down that excites the Fraud Squad and their political sponsors and urges them on to more spurious arrests.

Enough arrest warrants and they could empty the parliament and remove all the judges that they are finding unco-operative. (Was Sakora’s arrest meant as a warning to the others?)

Attorney General Ano Pala arrest warrant quashed- his actions were incapable of being criminal
Attorney General Ano Pala arrest warrant quashed- his actions were incapable of being criminal

Indeed, had the Attorney General stepped down on his arrest warrant being effected his electorate would have been without a member for the last two years and the national parliament would have been deprived of his services. And all for specious charges that held no water (as was found in the judgment).

But it is the ‘step down’ demand on the Prime Minister, in particular, that has culminated in the opposition seeking the court’s aid to force a Vote of No Confidence in the parliament – a vote that proved to have no chance of getting up – and the Supreme Court complied.

There is considerable debate in PNG as to whether the Supreme Court overstepped their jurisdiction and breached the separation of powers.  More money will no doubt be expended on finding the answer to that.

That is, more money than the compensation likely to be claimed by all of those who were burned by the Fraud Squad’s incompetence and misguided zealotry.

These men of the Fraud Squad may be presenting themselves as God’s police; occupying a moral high ground that they have personally defined, but in actuality they are nothing short of loose cannons and dangerous vigilantes.

Kerenga Kua, a prominent opposition member
Kerenga Kua, a prominent opposition member

The political opposition is looking to the nation’s courts to effect a political solution that they are incapable of effecting in legitimate, political ways.

God help us all, if the courts co-operate any further – and yet, the three decisions this week give me hope that the law will triumph over vested interests.

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The Inaugural VONC Awards

By PNG Echo

To recognise outstanding achievement in matters concerning the Vote of No Confidence the committee (me) would like to make the following awards. In the category of

KNaru_ResizedBest Speech the winner is:
KELLY NARU
– the Governor of Morobe who displayed a profound understanding of the issues surrounding this vote and articulated them with a razor sharp analysis – especially in that which concerned the ‘Separation of Powers’.

1609803_10152547043623574_471502395_nThe Yeah Yeah Yeah award also goes to Morobe and is won by:
SAM BASIL– who displayed none of the above but whose words inspired the next award.

The Mispronunciation award, that goes to the word:
OPPOSHISHUN closely rivalled by DESHISHUN

In the ‘Best Dressed’ category the award was unanimously voted as going to:
BEN MICAH – Was his suit a political statement or does he just look good in yellow?

 

0317np2The Let’s Keep Them Guessing award goes to:
PAIAS WINGTI – who kindly kept the whole nation entertained for seven days playing ‘Where’s Wingti’?  He was in Port Moresby and voted with government.  Who got it right?

 

James-MarapeIn the category of Best Comeback the award goes to:
JAMES MARAPE – whose quick and incisive replies floored a couple of prominent members of the Opposition including Kerenga Kua, the practiced litigator.

 

5160696-3x2-940x627Best timing goes to:
THEO ZURENUOC: – the Speaker of the House whose call for a vote was a relief to most (see the ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ category that proved to be a strongly contested award) and that prompted the following category of…

 

Namah styleBest Tantrum and was won by:
BELDEN NAMAH – who is poised to make this category his own with his foot-stamping, fist thumping rhetoric – “Give us a chance to debate – I will not sit down until I debate.” He must be still standing because in the next category…

6a00d83454f2ec69e2017c32c40800970b-800wiBest Sense of Humour, …where the winner is, once again, Speaker of the House:
THEO ZURENUOC – He presided over the proceedings with good humour, a ready smile and who wisely responded not with sanctions, but with amused laughter at the above recalcitrant.

Peter+O'NeillBut the Gold VONC goes to the Honourable PETER O’NEILL, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (then and now) for his decisive win of 85 to 21.

Hail the Chief.

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Who is really defeating the course of justice?

By PNG Echo

Ano+Pala
Attorney General, Ano Pala – arrest warrant quashed.

Attorney General, Ano Pala, has today had the warrant of arrest, extant since July 2014, quashed by a unanimous three-man bench of the Supreme Court – consisting of Justices Higgins, Sawong and Batari.

The warrant had been sworn out by Magistrate Cosmas Bidar at the behest of Police Officer, Matthew Damaru.

The charge leveled was ‘defeating the course of justice’ in conspiracy with others including the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Geoffrey Vaki and their respective counsels notwithstanding that most of these people were not a party to the proceedings at the time. The quashing of the arrest warrant means that the conspiracy charges are also not recognised.

Pala’s alleged sin, in the eyes of Detective Chief Superintendent Damaru, was to apply for the State to be joined to a matter wherein the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister had filed proceedings to legitimize (or not) bills paid by the state to Paul Paraka Lawyers by way of a declaration of taxation.

Paul Paraka, becoming a peripheral comncern in the saga that bears his name.
Paul Paraka, becoming a peripheral comncern in the saga that bears his name.

This is a most important question because if the Paraka bills are legitimate then no offence has been committed.

It is a way of getting to the truth – proof of a crime should be at the very beginning of an investigation (clearly no one has told this to Task-Force Sweep or the Fraud Squad.)

The truth is something that Police Officer, Matthew Damaru patently did not want to get in the way of a good witch hunt

I mean, how could trying to ascertain the truth be an attempt to defeat the course of justice?

Indeed, the three learned judges ascertained that Pala’s filing of proceedings

…is an act incapable of being a criminal act.

Further, they emphasized their ruling was timely (and lucky for some) as had Pala been arrested and denied his liberty, he would have had ample cause for redress.

Mikail overruled

One of the alleged co-conspirators - Geoffrey Vaki
One of the alleged co-conspirators – Geoffrey Vaki

With this decision, the Supreme Court overruled the previous decision of Justice Colin Makail in the National Court that dismissed Pala’s petition saying he had no standing to bring proceedings until after he was arrested.

Think about it: what’s the point of trying to quash an arrest warrant after its already been effected? But that’s what Justice Makail, in his wisdom decided – yes it baffles me too.

But it was not only that the charges were specious that caught the attention of the learned Judges but also the manner in which the arrest warrant was effected.

The faulty warrant

Magistrate Cosmas Bidar
Magistrate Cosmas Bidar who signed off on the arrest warrant

The Judges maintained that

…the warrant ha[d] received such little attention that the learned magistrate [Bidar] did not even choose whether the subject was “him or “her”.

The judgment went on:

It does not appear that any grounds were suggested to the magistrate… [although] …[t]he need to consider alternative grounds is mandatory.

Yet, even had the magistrate considered the grounds (which the bench found he hadn’t) apparently ”

None of the grounds for considering arrest referred to…could reasonably have been believed to justify the arrest of the applicant.

And so the witch hunt continues.

Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr Aloysius Hamou
Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr Aloysius Hamou – exonerated – onlly doing his job

This is the second ruling this week that has found that the actions of the Fraud Squad have been cavalier.

For two years the Attorney General has had this charge hanging over his head – just because he lawfully sought the truth.

And then there’s the Deputy Secretary of Treasury, Mr Aloysius Hamou – described by all his work colleagues as a true and faithful public servant – who was sacrificed to the zealotry of these rogue elements in the Police Force who have become a law unto themselves.

He was also exonerated, found to be only doing his job in the purchase of the Israeli turbines matter – in fact, had he not obeyed the lawful directive from the NEC he would have been up on disciplinary charges.

I’m told Mr Hamou doesn’t enjoy the best of health, this episode, for an honest, fine and upstanding man, such as he, must have added a considerable amount of stress to his life, not to mention the loss of reputation.

When is someone going to stop these people?

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Why not Juffa?

By PNG Echo

The warlord's son - with his weapon of choice
The warlord’s son – with his weapon of choice

Don Polye, the Engan warlord, whose election result has been set aside on more than one occasion for suspected and proven tampering (including the most recent one), who is implicated in many corruption scandals including (but not only) the unresolved Paraka case, who has been rejected and sidelined by every government he’s served under, not least of all for incompetence, has been named as the alternative Prime Minister.

Is this the best the Opposition can do?

I’ve maintained (and am unlikely to resile from the position) that the Opposition is not a fit outfit to run a country.   They are a motley crew of the disaffected, disgruntled and rejected – all with knives sharpened to do each other in at the earliest opportunity.

I think they’ve already done Ben Micah in.

According to a government press release, Micah, when denied what Minister Marape has labelled “unreasonable demands” to whit: to be given the Deputy Prime Minister’s Portfolio (the good Minister considering Micah ” …does not have the stature, experience and respect required to be Deputy Prime Minister.”) he gathered up all his toys, like a spoilt child, and left – disgruntled, disaffected and rejected.

Hallo Byron. Off to Alotau? Does ben know?
Hallo Byron. Off to Alotau?

Only he left a few behind, like the Chans – the most useful toys in his stash.

How would he perform as DPM when he can’t even maintain the following of a small political party? I do, though, wonder how Micah found himself in oppositional no man’s land – no nomination as alternative Prime Minister – not even Deputy (they’ve got Basil, who’s made that role his own.)

The only reasonable explanation is that he did more than just sulked away – likely left with a whip behind him.  Ah, you never know how humble you can be – until being humble is all the choice you have.
(Apologies to the unknown sage whose words of wisdom I’ve bastardized)

Mind you, the Opposition are so few that, at this stage, promising Ministerial portfolios would not be a problem.

However, once they’re all gone – what do they have left that’s in the least attractive for the other MPs and for the country? Not a lot.

Yet we are being regaled, in the social media, with all the likely defections – to the Opposition – when in fact the faction that is the most wobbly is the Opposition.

ben-micah (1)Micah, for instance, he’s got nothing for his defection (and he’s not known for doing things out of the goodness of his heart) and what’s more they quite likely tricked him out of the leadership or deputy role and he wouldn’t be pleased about that. I’d say Micah is for sale to the highest bidder – except no one seems to be bidding.

20130910_Tue_HeadlinesAnd then, there’s Namah… who has been ‘making eyes’ at O’Neill for some time now. But the famous cuckold has been, so far, unsuccessful. However, O’Neill would only have to wink at him and he’d come running. He’s no stable member of this wraggle-taggle mob – a bit of a floozy really.

…and Kua – he’s been a bully in the past – See: http://www.pngecho.com/2016/05/05/so-you-want-kerenga-kua-as-the-next-pm-oh-please/ – and it seems he’s still at it.

5160696-3x2-940x627Wasn’t it humiliating to see Speaker, Theo Zurenuoc go to water when Kua reminded him, ominously, that he could be charged with contempt of court – a veiled threat, I thought. You could have carried the Speaker around in a bucket. I’m wondering what motivates this feisty little gnome-like creature other than enriching the Somares.

Then, lurking in the background, not really with them, not really against them, is the Governor of Oro, Gary Juffa.

Here’s your solution.

 I’m now going to suspend all disbelief in order to give you all what you say you want: that is the Opposition, the social media and the silent majority.

It is the Opposition’s position that this VONC was necessary because Peter O’Neill is ruining the country and needs to be removed to save PNG.   Their motivation is to save PNG from corruption and bad fiscal management.

Pay attention to this, because it’s vital.

How can that be the case when they’ve nominated someone like Don Polye to be alternative Prime Minister – just more of the same things they accuse O’Neill of and worse?

I have also demonstrated, here and at other times, that the main contenders for alternative Prime Minister in the Opposition are all tainted by the broad brush of corruption.

The Opposition would tell you that they were acting on behalf of the ‘silent majority’; that they’ve heard their plaintive cries (although I don’t know how when they’re silent) and are responding – a voice for the voiceless.

Equally, there is a certain demographic that uses the social media who claim to also be speaking for the ‘silent majority’. (The students’ did too – but let’s leave them out – this social grouping seems to be becoming over-represented).

We can therefore conclude that the Opposition and the social media, anti-government forces are speaking for this same voiceless demographic.

With me? Excellent.

The deputy (of most things)
The deputy (of most things)

If we scrutinize the rhetoric of this social media grouping and take heed of the many surveys they have carried out, the consensus is that this silent majority, want Gary Juffa as alternative Prime Minister. Unequivocally! (Oh and Basil as the Deputy – who else?)

Juffa, though, hasn’t got the numbers and the Governor understands this only too well – yes, but only because these supposed representatives of the ‘silent majority’ have given their vote to Polye when their supporters want Juffa.

Oh come on Don, why don’t you listen to the plaintive cries of your constituents? It’s easy stuff, step down, instruct the Opposition (which you claim to lead) to back Juffa.

This will reveal, if your aim is really as stated or whether this VONC is a cynical exercise to raid the state’s coffers. As for the social media and the anti-government forces, I’ve given you a tangible way to get what you want – go lobby – but be prepared to run when the sheepskins are shrugged off to reveal the hungry wolves.

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The Rejects’ Shop – aka: the Opposition

By PNG Echo

13699546_10153959384506865_1414274448_o (1)
The ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ with Namah, significantly (?) in the second tier.

In most western democracies – certainly ones with a two-party system – the Opposition opposes the Government primarily on political ideology. That ideology provides the guiding principles for their policies.

In Papua New Guinea that has a 40-something-party (and goodness knows how many independents) system, the leading political ideology is self-serving pragmatism with a nod to expediency – so what exactly does the Opposition oppose?

The raison d’être

In the main, they are in Opposition because the Government doesn’t want them. In fact, the Opposition ranks (and they are meagre) consist of the rejected, swelled by the disaffected. And this is where the ‘alternative Prime Minister’ of Papua New Guinea will be sourced?

They’d all be still with the O’Neill Government if they had not either been unceremoniously dumped and/or O’Neill had not thwarted their ambitions, within the Government.

Many (and more, it seems, to come) have slunk into the Opposition ranks, tail between their legs, venting their spiteful spleen, like rejected lovers.

In fact, I’ve heard tell that the ultimate politically rejected lover is shuffling behind O’Neill, with his begging bowl, exhorting O’Neill to take him back. I’ve also heard tell that O’Neill is resolute in denying him.

The major players

Beware the Ides of AugustDon Polye:
Stripped of the Ministry of Finance, then the Treasury portfolio and then expelled from Government by O’Neill. Ordered by the Prime Minister to sit in the Opposition benches, after initially resisting, he finally complied – ousting Namah as Opposition Leader.  As leader of THE Party, Polye does not control his members. A large section of his Party stayed with government, including the Deputy Prime Minister – many defected to the Prime Minister’s party, PNC.

Belden Namah:
The ultimate cuckold. O’Neill’s coalition partner going into the 2012 elections, O’Neill found he did not need Namah – neither as far as numbers were concerned nor did he need the controversy and shame that Namah had brought to the high office when he was Deputy Prime Minister.  Eventually, all deserted Namah with the last being the perpetual deputy, Sam Basil – and now he’s gone too.

Kerenga Kua:
Former Attorney General – did he jump – or was he pushed? Certainly things were not going swimmingly for him in the government ranks. He never made it. Now he is the leader of the disgruntled (oh, and some resurrected and obscure political, one-man party.)

eight_col_Sam_BasilSam Basil:
Even the perpetual deputy whose fortunes rose and fell with Belden Namah has decided that Namah is too much of a liability and has resurrected the Pangu Party as its leader and even managed to get himself one follower in the guise of Little Willie Samb of Goilala.  To my knowledge though, he is still deputy of the opposition – but I wonder for how long now that the Opposition has swelled its number of wannabes.

In the comments, please feel free to add an Opposition member and elaborate how they have been rejected by government and why they are disgruntled.

PNG-Public-Enterprise-and-State-Investments-Minister-Ben-Micah.Which brings us to Ben Micah: Rumour has it that O’Neill would not give him the Deputy Prime Minister’s job and removed his portfolio. So welcome to the disgruntled, Ben. You’ll need to fight with Kua to have the title of ‘leader’ of that bloc but you certainly have the advantage in the weight stakes if not necessarily the political weight stakes. (BTW Ben, you forgot to take the Chans with you!)

Micah’s sins and indiscretions are legion. They are the stuff of dissertations and I have no time to go into them now. But you know what they are anyway – feel free to share in the comments. We’re all interested.

Slim pickings

IMG_1284
Symbolically, Micah leads Polye into the chamber

The Opposition’s rejoicing at Micah’s defection reminds me of the time when Namah, as then Leader of the Opposition, proudly announced his newest defection to the ranks – Paul Tiensten, that is, after he’d been convicted but before his sentence had been handed down. For all of you who missed it – Tiensten is in Bomana (I wonder if he’s still in the Opposition and whether he can vote?)

I do understand that this outlook for an alternative Prime Minister is depressingly bleak – but I have been fomenting an idea that could work. I’m going to sleep on it – I’ll get back to you soon. After all, we’ve only got seven days.

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The Opposition: Not a leader among them.

By PNG Echo.

Beware the Ides of August
Beware the Ides of August

Take Don Polye: he’s tried for years, but he inspires no one; his aspirations to lead have only led him into the diminished position he finds himself today – leading an opposition who are only behind him because that is the best position from where to stab him in the back.

They all want to lead – it’s just that no one follows.  They just don’t inspire –  none of them.

Yet, there are no followers in the current Opposition either (save for little Willie Samb of Goilala who, on joining the Opposition, found himself in a far more prominent position than he would have been had he joined government.)

Little Willie is the one-man-band of the eternal ‘deputy’ Sam Basil, and even he is now the proud head of the largest party (?) in Opposition (or is that still Polye’s THE Party, I seem unable to find any members who quit government to follow their ‘leader’ into Opposition – but I guess there must be at least one.)

Amusingly, a party of two is double the usual size of the parties in this coalition.

Painted into a corner

One of the 'Chancers'
One of the ‘Chancers’

Polye is the figurative head of a raggle-taggle band of wannabe leaders that are, in reality, has-beens (Namah), never-were (Marat), never-will-be (Basil), and chancers (Kua and the rest).

I doubt if any of them are loyal to Polye.  He doesn’t inspire loyalty.

Some are only in the Opposition because that’s the only side that will have them – and Polye is amongst this number.

Ousted by O’Neill – he should have seen it coming. His performance in the role of Minister for Treasury and Finance saw O’Neill remove the Finance portfolio from him and place it in more competent hands. That was before he dumped him, unceremoniously, notwithstanding the numbers that he could have taken with him into Opposition – but they didn’t go. His leadership qualities are lacking.

Then there are those that would be back in the government if only O’Neill would have them and I hear tell that at least one has been imploring O’Neill to take him back. The metaphoric jilted lover whose plaintiff cry “…after all I’ve done for you,” echoed through the hallowed halls of Waigani in 2012.

The things they share: The risks they run

 Namah with his followers - now all gone - even the 'eternal deputy', Sam Basil.
Namah with his followers – now all gone – even the ‘eternal deputy’, Sam Basil.

One of the binding common factors of the Opposition is that they don’t want to follow Polye: this coalition is of the unwilling.

The other, of course, is that these wannabe leaders have no followers. They are the overly-ambitious heads of one-man parties whose members (followers) have deserted them in droves.

If Polye manages to wrest power from O’Neill – and the likelihood of that is negligible – will we see the Ides of March re-enacted in Papua New Guinea?

I don’t believe there will be one member of the Opposition that will refrain from gleefully plunging the dagger into Polye after he has served his purpose – he just doesn’t inspire loyalty.

O’Neill has proved a formidable and maybe even an impossible target for this band of treacherous brothers  – Polye would be a far easier foe. They’re hoping he can pull a rabbit out of a hat for them – before they turn on him.

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