Brian Halesworth, school broadcast pioneer
A boys school in the sixties – a Bugandi story

Somare on the brink as PNG holds its breath


THERE IS EXCITED talk in the suburbs of Mosbi and, in the settlements, street-bookies are taking a wager or two.

It’s the only game in town; the hot media topic making front page news; the story that’s got political punters excited.

Is this the end of Sir Michael Somare’s prime ministership?

I am quietly confident it's not time yet for Somare's swan song. More likely Kenny Roger's “You picked a fine time to leave me, NA” humming along the corridors of the Haus Tambaran next week.

In order not to risk unnecessary altercations in the diverse society of the national capital, people are careful and discreet - one never knows who one is talking to and whether that particular person may be a Somare supporter.

The media has been speculating for over a week. It's public knowledge that the Sir Mekere Orauta’s Opposition intends to move a vote of no-confidence motion in next week's parliamentary session. The clear aim is to remove Somare as PM.

This will be a difficult task. Many political variables still remain and those thinking of crossing the floor are still not sure of whether it's the right thing to do.

Politics in PNG is always fluid. Sir Mekere knows very well that he is up against a tough opponent who knows how to play the numbers game better than anyone, except perhaps New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan; the other maestro who knows a thing or two more than the young guns of today’s parliament and who was Somare's first Treasurer and later PNG's second prime minister.

In PNG today, party policies are a secondary matter. Those who will be enticed or seduced will already have displayed weaknesses that the behind-the-scenes Mr Fix-its will work on.

Among other incentives, there will be cash gifts and promises of Ministries, regardless of whether the MP has the required qualifications or not.

In order to beat Somare, Mekere must have the required numbers before parliament sits next week. If he fails, his chance of removing a perceived dictator will be gone.

The people will also miss an ideal opportunity to have a properly run this government for the next two years before the general election.

The opposition has moved to invite other MPs to join them to remove Somare, seeking like-minded MPs unhappy with Somare's leadership to defect.

So for PNG Attitude punters, Keith Jackson's bet could be right on the money. The Grand Chief is not leaving politics yet. This may further frustrate his inner circle who will see that he has once again misled the party and the nation by delaying a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle and quitting politics.

On the other hand, many NA insiders have long secretly feared that, with pressure on for his job, the PM may do something stupid that could seriously threaten the party's internal stability. Many party members feel that, in an eleventh hour surprise move, Somare will forget the national interest and give the top job to his son, Arthur, and damn the party deputies.

While this may not be possible under party constitution, there has been media speculation that amending certain provisions could facilitate this. But the NA regional deputies will challenge such a move prompting a revolt. Or they may or simply dump Somare by defecting to the other side.

So by this time next week, we will know whether PNG has a new prime minister or government. But Morauta may not get the required numbers in the time available. The opposition has not told the nation why they should be in government and what it can offer PNG as an alternative.


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Reginald Renagi

In this morning's news bulletin, Puka Temu has now stated what the public has known for a very long time. He said it is now the time for Prime Minister Somare to relinquish the PM's position as his mind is not as sharp as it used to be. He has also created a lot of disharmony within the NA party and the coalition.

Somare was previously thrown out of his othe party before for this sorts of shenanigans he plays. But it seems he has not even learnt his lesson well and will again relive it by now paying a high price this time.

Yes, it does look like the end of the road for the Chief. But don't hold your breath yet as the old maestro has been known to pull out a rabbit out of the hat before, and could come up with a trump card hidden up his sleeves in the last minute.

Colin Huggins

Peter - Here is the list of PNG PM's:

Michael Somare (1975-80) - Pangu Party

Sir Julius Chan (1980-82) - People's Progress Party

Michael Somare (1982-85) - Pangu Party

Paias Wingti (1985-88) - People's Democratic Movement

Sir Rabbie Namaliu (1988-92) - Pangu Party

Paias Wingti (1992-94) - People's Democratic Movement

Sir Julius Chan (1994-97) - People's Progress Party

John Giheno (acting) (1997) - People's Progress Party

Sir Julius Chan (1997) - People's Progress Party

Bill Skate (1997-99) - People's National Congress Party

Sir Mekere Morauta (1999-2002) - People's Democratic Movement

Sir Michael Somare (2002-10) - National Alliance Party

Interesting mob, aren't they? Seems PNG has had more PM's - 12 in all. It does look like re-arranging the deck chairs on the 'Titanic'.

Now a simple question, if you live in PNGt, who did the best for the welfare of the PNG people? Maybe, someone else might like to comment?

Peter Warwick

Thanks Colin. Counting Gillard, that would make it seven. But that is not changes of government. There may be a change of government after the next election. Oz has not had recycled PMs as there have been here in PNG (Somare). Am I right?

Peter Warwick

Some two years ago, I had a few beers with a Hong Kong Chinese official in Port Moresby. He said he was from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Glorious People’s Republic of China. I could not tell if he was a politician or bureaucrat due to problems with Ingirish.

He was fascinated how governments change so quickly in Australia. I wrote down the essential steps of government change on several beer mats for him, and I thought it may be of interest to PNG readers here.

1. The ruling government sets the election date, general 4 to 6 weeks away, but the shorter the better in order to catch the opposition on the back foot.

2. The campaign begins with generally a few personal attacks thrown in. “Mrs Smuth (now estranged from her husband) says Mr Smuth is a philanderer, unfaithful wife basher and has been seeing prostitutes” Or, “The Member for Bandywallop was seen outside The Soft Touch in St Kilda, with his zipper down and wallet in his hand”.

3. Policies are espoused, but can transmogrify over the election. One party’s “we make no apologies for our tough stand on boat people” can end up “we agree that there must be some measure of humanitarian allowance for the boat people”. Law and order is always a hot topic – “we will double all penalties for capital crimes”, thus ensuring a life sentence can be a double life sentence.

4. On election night, the party faithful have assembled in their respective hotels around the nation – the Workers Arms (or local equivalent) for the Labor Party, or the Hotel Intercontinental (or local equivalent) for the Liberal party. Lubrication of dry throats can start pretty early in the day. “We’ve got this one in the bag”.

5. The commentators can see no discernible trend by 7 o’clock, but by 8 o’clock, some trends are emerging.

6. By 11 o’clock, there may be a fairly clear result, and when the Chief Returning Officer has determined that one party has a sufficient lead that cannot be defeated by the votes yet to come, the result is announced. There is an almighty roar and hugs all round. The vanquished may say the whole thing was rigged, and that dirty tricks were responsible for their demise.

7. The losing PM concedes defeat and graciously congratulates the winner.

8. The winning PM thanks the faithful, and promises bigger things to come.

9. Both sides get seriously into the social lubrication now, and by 11 o’clock next morning , the hotels are ejecting the last few teary drunks. The police overlook regulations about closing times.

10. Next day, the loser goes straight to the PM's office and removes any sensitive files, and arranges a removalist. Graciously, we give the losing PM three days to vacate the PM's office, and five days to leave the official residence.

My Chinese friend was truly fascinated how a government can change in what really amounts to 20 minutes, done by a lowly election official, and so peacefully.

I told him we do it without bloodshed or civil disturbance. I said that in Australia, the incoming government looks at the previous policies that were popular, and continues with them under a different name. There are no radical changes. “Hard and fast, cast in bronze” policies do transmogrify over time.

My Chinese friend told me that to change government in China requires years of policy examination of Central Committees of the Communist Party of the Glorious People’s Republic.

There are purges of traitorous officials, intellectuals who had penetrated policy areas are eliminated or despatched to rural re-education camps, and various tortuous examinations of party officials conducted to see if they remain untainted or otherwise by corrupt western values.

I asked him what would be become of the tainted, and he did not answer.

I also asked how a communist government can practice unbridled capitalism throughout the world, and that there is a conundrum somewhere in that.

He did not have a clear answer but mumbled something about the Central Committees of the Communist Party of the Glorious People’s Republic of China “New Policy”.

I say all this because it looks as though there may be an election soon in Australia, and I am looking forward to that election night. It’s such theatre, but still not as intriguing as PNG.

Reg, I do not think KJ will be offended if you were to be appointed the official PNG Attitude Political and Election Intrigue Reporter. Please keep us informed.

Colin Huggins

Australian PM's since 1972: Whitlam - Fraser - Hawke - Keating - Howard - Rud - and now Gillard. Stay tuned!

Peter Warwick

Reg - You would know the political intrigue better than the other punters here.

It's the same in OZ. Kevin07 went to work one day, proud to be PM, only to find by afternoon smoko he had to ring his wife and tell her to start packing and arrange a removalist.

All done without storming the palace gates. It was simply a case of the night of the long knives. And all done in the spirit and practice of democracy.

It will be the same here, except that it is more open, and everyone has a knife.

I thought Plan B was the better option, that is, ask Somare to resign, rather than rush straight into a vote of no confidence.

I think there is a cricket adage that when the crowd is screaming for you to go, then go. I thought it may give Somare a chance to go gracefully. Perhaps he does not play cricket.

I am researching the numbers of PMs in Oz and PNG. I think Oz has had more PMs than PNG since 1975. Can anyone help with the names of PMs in PNG since 1975.

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