By PNG Echo.
- the recent defections (?) to the Opposition,
- the Grand Chief’s move to the middle benches (or the opposition depending on who you listen to)
- and the UBS loan.
The Prime Minister reminded his audience that PNG, as an adherent to democratic principles, was governed by the virtue of numbers – and he had them
In fact, O’Neill has almost 60 Members of Parliament in his own PNC party, according to figures he quoted. With the PNG parliament having 111 seats, O’Neill’s PNC Party has the numbers to govern on its own if it so desires. I cannot recall another time in post-colonial history that that has ever been the case.
However, this government is a coalition government and holds the seats of around 100 members (once again according to the Prime Minister’s estimations). So even with Polye, Soso et al joining the Opposition, the opposition is still going to be largely irrelevant.
If the government bench has 100 MPs – that only leaves 11 seats – less than 10% of the whole, hardly cause for political concern.
And besides, as the Prime Minister pointed out, THE Party (and their leader Don Polye) did not defect but were removed.
And yes, it all had to do with the UBS loan that was taken out by the government to buy Oilsearch shares. It was the loan that Polye opposed, refusing to sign the necessary documentation as Treasurer and forcing the hand of O’Neill to dismiss him. And O’Neill obliged.
Since then, Polye has commenced two court proceedings to have the loan declared unconstitutional.
The first was thrown out of court as the wrong proceedings were instigated and the next constitutional reference which he filed has not been progressed for nigh on 6 months, forcing speculation on the real reason for the court challenge (publicity?).
However, Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill has been referred to the Leadership Tribunal on this matter and the Tribunal will decide whether procedures were followed and due process was served.
Counsel for the Prime Minister has maintained (as has O’Neill himself) that no processes were abused and that allegations of contravention of the constitution are based on misinterpretation, misinformation and misconceptions.
The allegations (and defence) are legalistic and administrative in nature and I have no intention of pre-empting the findings of the Tribunal.
The Grand Chief
There is a certain irony in this situation, because, as the Prime Minister pointed out, the UBS loan was necessary to clean up the mess that was left by the Somare government and particularly, then MP, Arthur Somare’s setting up of the ill-fated Arab loan.
And while it could be argued that there were better solutions to the ensuing mess, and many have indeed argued that, it was nevertheless the decision of the NEC and it is beyond the remit of the Leadership Tribunal to question the decision, just how it was implemented.
The middle benches may also be a more comfortable and convenient place for Sir Michael to conduct his K205 million lawsuit against the coup leaders of 2011 (one of which is Prime Minister, the other being the erstwhile Opposition Leader, Belden Namah) for his illegal removal from office.
The fight to be Captain
In all the hoopla over who is the legitimate Opposition Leader at this time, in the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter
It’s a battle between two chronic losers with Namah coming out as the biggest, being currently poised to lose the Opposition Leadership to Polye.
Indeed, it was Namah that fashioned the most spectacular political failure in PNGs post-colonial history when he went from Opposition Leader with around 25 members in August 2011to Deputy Prime Minister of a constitutionally illegal government, to Opposition Leader with less that 10 members (and dwindling – depending on when you want to count from) in almost exactly a year.
In that time he had expended countless millions setting up the coup and countless more on his 2012 election campaign (estimations have been bandied around at K50 million) where the expectation was that the leadership was his for the taking in 2012. It wasn’t.
Polye too has had his share of opportunities to rise to political prominence but has been chronically ineffectual. See my articles on Polye’s career
So to imagine that either has what it takes to lead PNG is pure spin – and there’s been much of it – especially the well-labelled Barmy Army for Belden Namah, who have even suggested that it is ‘God’ himself who’s going to keep Namah in office. Good luck with that!
So, let them squabble over where the deckchairs should go, the ship’s still sinking.