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Time to govern in the national interest


FRANCIS HUALUPMOMI recently raised an interesting question in several media publications: “Who should succeed Grand Chief Somare?” The succession is open to any MP, and every parliamentarian should aspire to the lofty office of the prime minister given the right conditions in the term of a parliament.

On the other hand, this is also a good question the National Alliance Party and the coalition partners in the government should be answering at this juncture.

Today, PNG lacks competent political leadership. Since 2002 the government has failed to realistically address what is wrong. So far, the government’s overall performance has been very mediocre. I doubt it will improve before the country goes to the polls next year.

The government must immediately address the PNG leadership issue. Prime Minister Somare has been ill for some time now. A general assessment now is that, even if he does recover, he will not be in any fit state to continue as the prime minister.

Opposition leader, Belden Namah, was right to raise the matter in Parliament last Thursday, asking acting PM Sam Abal to invoke section 142, sub-section 5 (c) of the constitution. But acting Speaker Francis Maru disallowed this.

This immediately raises the next question, “Is there any credible leadership within the government to take over as prime minister?” In my view, not really, but there are some good prospects within the Opposition.

Many Papua New Guineans have great reservations in the government’s ability to fix issues of national importance before next year’s election. The NA also seems to have many ongoing in-house issues to ‘iron out’ in trying to competently lead a government coalition comprising many competing interests.

Whichever way one looks at the picture, the coalition parties are ‘guilty by association’ with the Speaker to consistently make parliament dysfunctional.

Since 2002, the speaker’s unprofessional conduct during numerous sessions has systematically not fairly allowed the Opposition to fully bring forward the concerns of our people, nor addressed them satisfactorily.

It is too late for this Somare government to improve upon its performance in the remaining months before the polls next year. The people must not vote it back in 2012.

Let us now look at the question Francis asked about who should succeed Somare. In general terms the answer is simple: a competent politician who has the national interest at heart.

Considering the performance of the government in its last two terms since 2002, the five names in Francis’s article are not suitable. Right now, there is no one in the NA camp who has the right leadership make-up to replace PM Somare. So we need to look outside that group.

The coalition partners have some good, hard working and committed parliamentarians, but all seem to lack the transformational and visionary leadership traits required of a PM, except for perhaps one: the only woman MP, Dame Carol Kidu.

The Dame is a true champion of the people. Compared to her male peers, she is perhaps the only MP who in the last two terms of parliament has been tirelessly pushing for good legislation on many national issues of importance.

The majority of MPs have failed in their primary roles as legislators. They have not made good laws or even tried to improve upon existing laws to make our country a better place in future.

But Dame Carol is the consummate lawmaker. Read her resume and see what she has done as an MP in three terms and you will be amazed at this extraordinary politician.

She has introduced many good policies and laws that have gone a long way to improve the welfare and wellbeing of ordinary citizens of PNG. No other MP past or present can match this track record.

If PM Somare is really serious about promoting the interest of PNG women and other marginalised sections of our community, then he should hand over the job of PM to Dame Carol now. She can do a much better job of ensuring the government is transparent, and parliament plays ‘clean politics’ in the next 12 months before the elections.

Looking at other coalition partners, the only person I see to be good PM material, who could lead the country with his heart, is Anderson Agiru, the Governor of Southern Highlands.

This writer has observed proceedings from the public gallery these past few years and I am impressed with the standard and quality of what Governor Agiru says on the floor of parliament.

He makes a lot of sense when he puts forward good rationale and sound strategic arguments. More government MPs should follow Governor Agiru’s example and improve the quality of debate in parliament.

With the health of prime minister Somare not in tip-top condition, the only way out of the leadership crisis is to immediately invite the Parliamentary Opposition to form a government of national unity.

With a new PM at the helm, the job of deputy can be given to Opposition leader, Belden Namah and key Ministerial portfolios shared to competent people to ensure our country is properly governed.

This is the only way citizens can see many outstanding issues addressed before the national elections in 2012.


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Reginald Renagi

The flipside here to what the government is doing in a corrupt manner will fill up all PNG Attitude newsletters going back to the very first edition by Keith Jackson when he decided to start this blog.

Many bad things that no government in the Commonwealth or Western democratic countries will ever be allowed to promote, or do are being done by the PNG government with immunity.

This happens because PNG's political leadership is weak.

It has no political will and commitment at all to fix the country's many problems.

The government by its lack of affirmative action is telling the public that it is only condoning many reported corrupt practices in recent times, especially in the last nine years.

The Opposition has raised these concerns on behalf of Papua New Guineans numerous times in parliament, but the government just ignores them or does not care at all.

So who is going to bring them to account?

The police, PNGDF, law and justice sector, Ombudsmen Commission, Australia or the US?

In fact, there is nobody in PNG that can now bring the Prime Minister and government to account, except perhaps the "people" themselves.

The country is being plundered by the few political elites with big business and special interests have now corrupted the ruling regime.

So do we want the same bunch of crooks now to come back again in 2012 to finish the job properly?

The government of Michael Somare will not help PNG and its people now.

So who are we going to call?

David Kitchnoge

Any government that actively engages in addressing corruption gets my vote.

What good is development when we know that whatever little achievements we have made would be corrupted to the bones and would not be sustained for the long haul?

There is more to it than what meets the eyes first. All successful civilisations are built on a set of principles.

And if we can't get it right at that level, then forget it. I'm not singing anyone's praises just yet.

Bernard Yegiora

Steve, nicely said. I agree with you, a coin has two sides, when we describe one side, we must also discuss the other side as well.

The government is doing a good job no doubt, we can see and hear a lot of interesting news, the Tuna revolution described in the news paper is one worth following. The Tuna canneries in Spain and Europe now know of PNG's existence.

Steve Gallagher Darong

It is always wise to be fair in writing comments about our government. I do sometimes criticise the government for issues regarding the national interest which the government fails to address well. However, there are some things that government is doing well.

The Somare government for ten years has done its best and we can see with our naked eyes. We cannot say that our government is bad all the time.

It is always good to be realistic and fair. There are some corrupt MPs in opposition too. We don't want PNG national assets to be privatised if the same old people from the opposition return next election and form the government.

With that, we salute Sir Michael Somare and pray that Allah will bless him.

Reginald Renagi

Hey Henry, long time no hear, wantok. Good to hear that you are still around.

No, I don't think Claire meant any harm. The comments were good and fair by any means.

KJ's blog is a good free forum. So anyone can say what they like here. But on hindsight, I feel a bit bad as I may have slightly over-reacted somewhat here.

But I do hope Clare comes back to discuss issues that will improve PNG-Australian relations, or anything about the 'unpredictableness' of the 'rough and tumble' world of PNG politics. I can then explain some more to our readers.

Watch for some sequels in the next few weeks on PNG Attitude.

Reginald Renagi

Bernard: it's all right, Claire is entitled to her opinion and is a good person, and means well.

Claire meant no malice to the Opposition MPs and the writer of the article. The 'punchy' comments made me clarify a few points I may not have done so in the article itself.

While some Opposition MPs are now complaining that parliament needs to be dissolved, and we go to early polls, this will not fix the problem we have.

As long as the political system remains unchange, we will still see the same problems in the next parliament and government.

What is really needed now are just some basic but fundamental political reforms.

This will greatly improve the system we have now to minimise inherent deficiencies within our system of governance.

Henry Sims

Well done Reginald,
Two beautiful responses to attack. That is the art of political repartee, ignore the insult whilst answering the question.
So what, that you have been called a big-mouth and are considered to be power hungry by Claire John. Who is she?
There are many other more important people who consider you as one of the brightest prospects for the future!
Bernard Yegiora reminds us that political allies "must be bought" and seeks information on the position within party hierachy of two possible PM candidates.
This is a lamentable fact in the bastardry of politics anywhere, but surely there are some "thinkers" amongst your PNGeans who can strive higher than their own personal benefit, to work towards a better outlook for the nation.
Look around for those that would put Country Before Self, not the "gimme-gimmies"
Broadsides are needed........Colonel

Bernard Yegiora

Reginald - I think Claire is outl of line with her comment about you.

Probably better to dissolve parliament and call for a fresh election.

Reginald Renagi

Bernard - My general assessment is based on putting a good capable person who may do a good job as the PM amidst many competing interests.

Anderson Agiru has the money as a member of the United Resources Party to be able to pull it off.

On the other hand, Dame Carol Kidu does not have the kind of money that many highlands politicians will have to pay for voters and supporters to help them get an edge over their competitors.

The 2012 national elections will again be all about 'money politics' and unless you have money to dish out in a big way, your chances of being elected may not be that good.

It is now a sad state of affairs that next year's elections will not be that much different from 2007, or the failed elections of 2002.

The current NA bunch do not have what it takes. They have lost all credibility and integrity as a responsible government.

There are also many things wrong with this current government but they refuse to see it.

If you take a closer look at the coalition partners, there many good MPs there but all are afraid to put up their hands for the top job.

Then we have the Opposition and middle-benches with many good quality MPs there.

All would perform very well if given a chance to form a grand coalition of 'a government of national unity'.

Reginald Renagi

Claire - This is the first time I have seen you comment on PNG Attitude.

I do not know what you know of the real politics in PNG or you would not have made the comments you just did.

You have just opened up a new can of worms on this blog so we'll just debate more here on how the PNG parliament functions under this government since 2002.

What's your real beef with the Opposition? Do you really want to know what the government and parliament does when it's in session?

Have you sat through at least one session of Parliament?

Do you know what they talk about and what the Prime Minister and his kitchen cabinet MP's say on the floor of parliament during debate?

Parliamentary Opposition Party MPs are not big mouths or power hungry. They have diligently brought up many issues of national concern on the floor only to find debate being gagged by the Speaker.

The government MPs can not intelligently debate issues in a rationale way but use their numbers to suppress what the people need to hear.

Parliament is at most dysfunctional and the government is not working for the people for many years now.

Every year, the government make sure the voice of the alternative government (opposition) is gagged and not heard by the people by under resourcing it.

And Claire, you really do not know anything about this writer at all to make a face-value judgement about him being power hungry.

Bernard Yegiora

Good article. However, at the end of the day the person who will lead PNG will be the one who can use money wisely to lure allies, who is good at reading the political game in Waigani and who knows how to use words.

This means, he has to be someone with a lot of money, an experienced parliamentarian and a good talker. From the article, I think both Anderson Agiru and Dame Carol Kidu fit the description.

But will both be willing to flash around a lot of money? Are both ambitious? Have they declared publicly that they are interested in the top job? Where in their respective party hierarchy are they positioned?

Claire John

I agree with you Icarus. Very good statement.

All those big mouths in the opposition are power hungry, including the writer of this article.


If Papua New Guinea was really serious about democracy and development, Dame Carol Kidu would be, that which in essence she already is, our Prime Minister.

Barbara Short

Thanks Reg. It is good to read all your observations on the PNG National Parliament.

I am amazed that the Speaker of the Parliament has had the power to upset the actual running of government.

It is good to hear about Dame Carol. I pray there will be a smooth handing over of power if Somare's health means he can no longer lead.

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