Polye or Namah? Rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

By PNG Echo.

imagesIn an interview given to EMTV at the end of last week, Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill commented on a number of issues including:

  • 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.

UBS loan

UBS-small-business-loan-fundAnd 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

5616102-1Which brings us to the defection of Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare (the latest thinking is that he’s going to the middle benches) who cited one of his reasons as being concern over the UBS loan.

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

Former Treasuere Don Polye applied to the courts for re-instatement

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.

0-1Indeed, 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.

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7 thoughts on “Polye or Namah? Rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

  1. Please give some more details your remark that “the UBS loan was necessary to clean up the mess that was left by the Somare government”. What was the mess, exactly, left by the Somare government that the K500 supplementary budget in late 2011 would not have been able to resolve? It would be good for all of us to be clear on this, thank you!

  2. It was the loan taken out with the Arabs to buy into the LNG project. When the loan matured the Arabs decided to keep the shares rather than have the loan repaid, leaving the PNG government with very little stake in the PNG LNG project and with a debt (I believe). If the Arabs had not reneged the loan would have still needed refinancing.

  3. What were the options available that the govt overlooked that would still enable us to retain shares in Oil Search? The decision to acquire shares is deemed unconstitutional, but is it uneconomical too?

    • I don’t really know. As for the decision to acquire being ‘unconstitutional’ there are differing opinions on that. I suggest you wait for the findings of the Leadership Tribunal – because that little snippet that you’ve presented as a ‘fact’ is actually moot. As for it being ‘uneconomical’ – the shares have certainly increased since they were acquired. I guess, time will tell.
      AMENDMENT: It seems while the shares did initially increase, they have now fallen to below their buy-in price because of a global oil glut. Such are the vagaries of the market

  4. My comment s are based on the economic reasons. I have been in the PNG SME Sector for the last 20 years. My analysis are that the present O’Neil government is careless and most decisions are absurd and unwise.
    1. The Lae to Nazab contract to a Chinese company over several 100 million is unreasonable and a liability to PNG if it is China Exim bank loan
    2. The Manus Asylum refugees deal with Australia is unconstitutional for a Aud 500, 000. I will not quote the section in the constitution since I am not with my computer records but this is true.
    3. The old Pineapple building rennovation of over MK50 is totally foolishness.
    4. The bypass road from Waigani to Jacksons airport cost and the design at Erima T junction will not solve the problem for the 7-10 Mile residents and there cost is absurd.
    5. The rebuilding of sports stadiums- I have little information on costs but the awarding of contracts and tendering processes is under questionable circumstances.
    6. The current government speaks of promoting SME sector but in all those contracts we give away our bargain ing power. In other countries you have it in the contract for local SMEs content as a way of technology and skills transfer.
    7. In such situations there is the general suspicions that certain MPs including the PM as the NEC chairman have vested interest.
    this is just my opinion….. end

  5. Herman, nice comments. However, Times are changing and PNG needs to find its place in the world. Think big. These projects will create employment and create economic activity. Our cities will look modern and efficient. We need to think big. Since Independence, we have been lead to beleive that we will never become a middle income or rich country and stay poor for ever. We must change that mentality. We must think big, see how countries like Malaysia is progressing and emulate that. I have travelled the world, and coming home, I am proud of the developments Port Moresby and PNG is getting at the moment. The cranes, the escavators, the stadiums, sports success, the roads, the housing projects, young people in business, hair saloons, coffee shops, etc. All these create more employment, government gets more taxes, and the loan is nothing. As a business man, you will know. You want to go to the next level and do something big instead of being static. You want to grow your business. Running PNG is like that. PNG has more potential, but our thinking and perception(thinking small) and managment is keeping us where we are. I think all politicians suffer are corrupt (cancer in Waigani) but PO has the brains and the balls to put PNG at its rightfull place where we deserve.

  6. Reply to Kapolwan.
    I agree that we need to think big for PNG to create employment and grow the economy.
    However what I did not point out was that all those infrastructure projects cost less than their present contract prices. It is like PNG presenting prizes to companies that have links to our MPs.
    I am not claiming these statement out of the blue. In my previous job as an executive officer and engineering advisor to a govt tenders board I know what goes behind the sanctuary of the closed door NEC and National Tenders Board.

    However I just returned from China two weeks ago. For instance, the contracting of the WHP government Kapal house by Governor Wingti for contract sum in the vicinity of MK100 is outrageous. You can build for less than MK30. The same Indian company that Hon Wintigi uses is now working on the Jiwaka government building hq at Krumugl tea near Kudjip. Coincidently I saw the I ndian principals in Highlander hotel in Hagen today duringl lunch with his engineers and I drove past the Jiwaka hq consconstruction site beside Okuk Highway in Krumugl.
    Let me warn PNG that if you deal with Indians as a general rule they are shrewd bargainers and some may use bribes and such corruption. With Chinese if you know your turft of bargaining you will get a fair deal for your country and business if you are self employed for over 20 years like my calling.
    Otherwise the many unwise and selfish decisions of our leaders accumulated to our present nationall debts where we fork out between 30-50% of our annual budget to service loans like the UBS dellima.
    But thank you for your positive dialogue.
    Cheers and Merry Christmas to our PNG Echo blog members and especially Dr. Susan this Year 2014 and New Year 2015.
    Br. David Herman Nime

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