BY KEITH JACKSON
PRIME MINISTER PETER O’NEILL showed some grit today in appearing before a crowd of protesters estimated to be 10,000 strong at John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby while, in other parts of the city, looters and vandals gave police cause for concern.
But it seems doubtful that Peter O'Neill's appearance has done much to ease people's concerns about the intentions of his government. As one observer said: "He left with more questionable promises made".
To chants of “rausim, rausim” [get rid of him] from the huge crowd, Mr O’Neill entered the stadium with members of his cabinet including deputy prime minister Belden Namah.
Mr O'Neill committed his government to holding elections "on time" and to repealing the Judicial Conduct Act, but only if chief justice Salamo Injia and justice Kirriwom step down.
Social and political commentators - among them Martyn Namorong, Effrey Dademo and Tavurvur - as well as ABC journalist Liam Fox were at the protest and tweeted frequent reports.
The crowd sang the national anthem, prayed together and joined in a reading of the national pledge before being addressed by trade union leader Michael Malabag, electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen, constitutional lawyer Prof John Nonggorr and a student leader.
Petitions calling for the government to hold the national elections as scheduled and for the repeal of the Judicial Conduct Act were handed to Mr O’Neill, who, to a mixed chorus of cheers and catcalls, addressed the crowd.
Meanwhile police were busy quelling incidents in other parts of Port Moresby as criminal elements opportunistically use the social discord as a cover for violence and theft.