By PNG Echo
The Prime Minister played a winning hand.
In fact, so good were his cards that he had that very rare commodity in a card game – a ‘lay-down misère’.
A lay-down misère is a hand so good that it is played in full view of the other players with no risk. It’s brazen and it’s shamelessly triumphant.
However, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Prime Minister may have ‘stacked the deck’ by removing all the opponent’s trumps (Sam Koim, ITFS, Thomas Eluh, Kerenga Kua…) with one of the last being dissenting Solicitor-General, Ms Jubilee Tindiwi.
But the Prime Minister’s winning ace was always the newly-appointed Police Chief, Geoffrey Vaki. Vaki had been strategically placed to trump anything that the court could throw down.
In the court room
In court yesterday, (June 1) Judge Kariko, as the arbitrator, had been left with precious little to decide on. All the parties consented to the same thing – the staying of the arrest warrant.
I remain surprised that, under the circumstances, he went against everyone’s wishes and decided not to grant the order. For which party did he think he was deciding?
The judge proffered, that to grant the stay was beyond his jurisdiction (so why was the court hearing it in the first place?) and that it was a matter for the police to solve administratively.
The court also held that, according to the constitution, the Police Commissioner has full control over the police. It was then that the Prime Minister had the chance to play his ace: Police Commissioner Vaki.
The Police Commissioner has made it known that he has no intention of arresting the Prime Minister until he has made yet another assessment on the available evidence. Your guess is as good as mine as to what this compliant Police Commissioner will find.
This, for the Prime Minister, is not any old ace it’s the ace – the ace of trumps.
Strategist par excellence
One is forced to admire the Prime Minister’s resourcefulness – as a political strategist he’s no slouch. And while the strategy is often brazen and transparent it is strategy that is difficult, if not impossible, to lawfully counter.
Mr O’Neill has used his Prime Ministerial powers (legally?) to the nth degree and I’ve no doubt will continue to do so to stop the trajectory of these accusations of corruption.
Had his accusers been as savvy, they would never have sworn out the warrant until they had manoeuvred themselves into a far stronger position.
It may have taken more time – and PNG would have been screaming even louder for an arrest – but crime fighting is not about populism and they could have had some hope of achieving their goal – a goal that is now fast slipping away.
It has become a political reality in Papua New Guinea that the power of the head of the executive and legislature trumps the power of the judiciary, especially if wielded in the way that it is being currently.
In this context, one could say that the Prime Minister is indeed above the law – and if he comes close to being subjected to it, he can always change those laws or indeed change key personnel in order to have the laws interpreted more sympathetically.
There are strong indications Prime Minister O’Neill has chosen to surround himself with the best advisors and aides.
Take the Prime Minister’s latest press release, for instance, it is a masterpiece of public relations.
It’s erudite and well-written with no embarrassing grammatical clangers or hilarious malapropisms that pepper the communication from elsewhere.
It’s where, in a master stroke of spin, the Prime Minister’s PR people have attempted to gain the moral high ground back from the Prime Minister’s accusers.
We are asked to believe that everyone who has expressed any opposition to the Prime Minister is wrong, lacks altruism and/or has been an abject failure in carrying out their duties. That’s a really long bow to draw – but it is well-argued and convincing if you are able to suspend all disbelief – and I’ve seen that happen in Papua New Guinea on more than one occasion.
Contrast this example of professionalism with his political rival Belden Namah (who erroneously refers to himself as the ‘alternate Prime Minister’). One strident disciple (PR person?) in coming to the defense of the Opposition Leader, called Namah a ‘clown’ when he meant ‘clone’.
When you have the Barmy Army on your side, you have no need of enemies.
The upshot is, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea is a savvy and wily politician and Papua New Guinea needs someone of his calibre at the helm – if only Mr O’Neill wasn’t widely believed to be a thief who has used his position to enrich himself (but then again, that has, and is being said of most of those who aspire to replace him.)
Unfortunately, the political choice in Papua New Guinea is between the devil and the deep blue sea.