David Fanshawe – collector of Pacific music
Somare escapes for now, but threatens Basil

Temu set to challenge Somare leadership

SUPPORT FOR Sir Michael Somare has deteriorated rapidly in the last few days, falling to about 60 of the 86 MPs who elected him prime minister, reports Rowan Callick in The Australian  this morning.

While the prime minister shored up his shaky parliamentary support sufficiently to stymie plans for a vote of no confidence yesterday, his National Alliance Party is fragmenting rapidly, says Callick.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu, who led three ministers out of the cabinet on Monday nigh, became leader of the opposition, which is within a few votes of the target for toppling a prime minister -- 55 out of 109 in the parliament.

But most of the Highlands bloc -- the biggest regional grouping -- stayed with Sir Michael, after they could not agree on a single leader of their own to challenge him.

Sir Michael, 74, is an astute player of this core element of PNG politics, and has been able to preserve enough of his formerly dominant majority, principally by offering ministries. In the last sitting, he amended legislation to enable him to appoint an extra five ministers beyond the limit of 27 in former cabinets.

He kept these positions up his sleeve as inducements, and could now add the jobs of the four who have defected to the opposition.

The traditional counter to a vote of no confidence in PNG is to call a motion adjourning parliament. A year ago, Sir Michael pulled this off with little trouble.

But the political environment has been transformed by a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that the 10-year-old Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties breaches constitutional freedoms.

That law ensured MPs stay with the party in which they were elected during the five-year parliamentary term.

This had made it virtually impossible to dislodge a government once it had formed a coalition enabling it to rule.

Now, however, MPs are free to shift between parties, and parties are themselves free to shift -- and the days of vote-buying and changing loyalties have returned.

Sir Michael yesterday felt sufficiently uncertain about his majority to refrain from testing it by an adjournment vote.

The stakes are much higher now in PNG. At least one liquefied natural gas project is virtually certain to be built, for about $18 billion, which is already driving up property prices in Port Moresby.

The drama is set to continue through this parliamentary session.

A motion of no confidence would be voted on a week after being brought.

Source: ‘Somare hangs on as tide turns’ by Rowan Callick, The Australian, 21 July 2010


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Peter Warwick

Well said, Barbara. Aussies, like their Pommy forebears, love a good whinge about anything, and politicians and governments are particular favourites.

But as you said, changes of governments in Australia do occur peacefully, and without visits from ASIO during the night or gunshots in the streets.

Despite that change can be quick, it is all open and visible, and everyone is still standing at the end.

We should be thankful, and press even harder that the system we have be reinforced further.

If Papua New Guineans can get this current potential change through cleanly and openly, then one can only praise them.

Barbara Short

I just hope political change can take place in PNG without bloodshed!

I was thinking that this message from one of our local Presbyterian ministers, Richard Quadrio, Pastor of the Macquarie Chapel, has some good points about Australia’s political system that PNG needs to follow.

The phony war is over and the Land of Oz is now on a journey towards deciding who can live in the Palace (or Lodge as we call it). As we face this journey some have lost their minds, some are scared and most are depressed but we really all ought to be thankful!

Firstly, we should be grateful that political parties can change leaders if they decide to have a vote when they are convinced that the person leading them is not right for their party or for the country.

Some see the ousting of a Prime Minister by his party as undemocratic, but the opposite is true. We vote for local members who in turn elect a leader. When Mr Rudd was challenged he called for a vote. When he did not have the numbers, he did not even contest. Afterwards he accepted defeat, moved offices and house, did not call in the army, did not get protesters in the street, did not hang on to power, but accepted the vote of his colleagues. He pledged allegiance to his new Prime Minister. His replacement, Ms Gillard, did not have him arrested after the event but offered him a job in her cabinet after the election. All peaceful, all democratic, with no army, no bloodshed, no arrests, no strife, no secret service.

Secondly, the usurper of power, albeit democratically, has now declared an election, so we can all decide who we want to lead our country for the next three years. Again no protests on the streets, no army, no violence, no guns, no threats, no intimidation! Now each one of us, regardless of our wealth, status, gender, religion or tribe, gets one vote to elect a local member to represent us who will in turn elect a leader to lead the nation. People will complain but in any global perspective we have to be considered so blessed.

Thirdly, over the next month or so we are free to discuss, debate, decry, demonise, and even donate to our prospective candidates. We can denigrate their policies, dismiss their record, doubt their promises and even debate the appropriateness of their swimwear. We can ask questions about faith, we can demand integrity, we can challenge motives and we can disagree. We even fund the whole process through electoral funding, which helps weaken the nexus between power and money.

Sure the system still has many rotten elements, where patronage, influence and control are still unequally vested in the hands of media barons, big business and the unions. But the unrestricted internet has levelled the playing field, allowing anyone to blog, network, comment and even tweet (or not).

The Bible tells us that governments are part of God’s plan. In a nation where we get such say, such freedom and such opportunity, we ought to be involved, active, engaged and above all, thankful.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13: 1

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