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Peace ceremony - PNG's equitable code of justice

Plesman's postscript to the political impasse


YESTERDAY I GOT A TWEET from PNG's most prolific anonymous blogger, a man named Tavurvur who runs the Garamut blog: "The Supreme Court passed its decision 3 - 0 in favour of Somare. Two judges abstained. Unheard of #PNG"

It was a bombshell no doubt. And one that will throw the political impasse into a new, unpredictable direction. But we'll try do some preliminary assessment. 

So at approximately 7:30 last night, the Supreme Court in a 3-0 decision upheld the prime-ministership of Grand-Chief Michael Somare. They did so after Parliament dissolved itself on Tuesday 15 May and writs were issued on Friday 18th.

We have to mention the dates because the dates are important to highlight the next bit of information. Parliamentarians are both representatives of the people and makers of laws.

On Tuesday Parliament invoked s105(c) of the Constitution to dissolve Parliament. Parliament unanimously moved to dissolve itself. In PNG, the last law that Parliament makes, at the end of its tenure, is the law to dissolve itself.

This, it did on Tuesday. When it did this, Parliament placed the law-making powers of the people in suspended animation... this simply means the power is there, but it is not active.

On Friday the Governor-General issued 111 writs for the 111 seats of Parliament to be contested. By doing this, the suspension of the law-making powers of Parliament was affirmed, and further, the mandate of Parliamentarians to represent their people in the Tambaran Haus was taken back to the people.

So if Parliament meets, it will be illegal and those occupying the seats of the Legislative Chamber will not be protected by parliamentary privilege and will open themselves up to contempt of court and, when they are charged, will forfeit their chances of running for election. Shiit!

Another tweet from Tavurvur last night: "O'Neill-Namah faction has refused to recognise the SC ruling & have recalled Parliament for a special session 10am tomorrow! #PNG #pngpol".

So would a sitting of Parliament be lawful? I think not.

It is like in the film The Terminator II, the Terminator has to destroy himself after his mission is complete... Well, in the same gist, Parliament has to end itself at the end of its tenure. It did this on Tuesday, and the decision was consolidated on Friday.

Let us now look at the Supreme Court. What will the Supreme Court's decision ultimately mean for the future of the country... nothing really!

The only ones getting an adrenaline rush are those of us at law school who now have a lot of good stuff to write about in our final major research papers. But really nothing big is at stake....

Suppose today Team Somare, dressed as The Avengers, storm into Morauta Haus and Parliament, the only group of people who are gonna suffer are members of the O'Neill camp, and to some extent their stellar legal advisors.

The rest of us will go to the polls and in a few swift weeks the Somare faction forming the caretaker government will reduce themselves to a bare minimum as everyone will be lobbying and meeting at March Girls Resort trying to form coalitions to form the new government.

We will go to elections. Not even Somare can stop the elections... and if he does, I will gladly take to the streets again to remind them that it is my right to vote.

The truth is, it is business as usual for we, the 99% of Papua New Guineans who struggle daily but don’t complain too loudly about it. We want to vote...

As a wise man by the name of Poin Caspar once told me, MPs and nappies are full of the same thing.

My message to politicians of both factions is as stated in the Facebook Song: Yupla bungim ass na pekpek!

I want a free, fair and safe election.... and afterwards a hard push for reform.

Law student, blogger and writer Nou Vada describes himself as Chief Interpreter of Bullshit


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Mrs Barbara Short

I blame "PNG time".

If everyone had done, straight away, what they should have done, and not left things "undone", to be carried out in "PNG time", then things would have been done in an orderly and correct manner, and none of this chaos would have eventuated!

All these decisions by lawyers seem to be "way after the events".

I imagine the next few weeks will have a few more surprises in store for PNG.


In response to Moais Gabuar's query regarding the possibility of military intervention by the PNGDF in terms of assuming some type of authority up until the return of the writs - see my response below:

I understand the rationale behind the suggestion, but it's the wrong solution to the issue, and not the best either.

The problem with any domestic military intervention is that unless it has the ubiquitous support and direction of the government, it is essentially an unauthorized military action similar to that of a military coup.

The police would be a better option here. But in saying that, the reality is that PNG has already begun the process of elections - parliament has risen, the writs have been issued and and nominations close tomorrow.

The government (whoever that is) is in caretaker mode and that should mean a very limited role in the affairs of national governance as per pre-approved financial allocations. No major decisions should be made right now, that is, unless a state of emergency is declared as per the constitution.

The PNGDF, police, and the public service have always had a role to play in terms of the period of time between the signing of the writs and the return of writs - but this has always been under the supervision of parliament via the caretaker government.

Anything else is not acceptable.

Furthermore, I am totally against any type of 'intervention' - whether military or civil - from foreign nations (e.g. Australia).

If we really look at latest political development - that is, the friction between O'Neill and Somare as to who is the legitimate PM - it is actually irrelevant and should have no bearing on elections going ahead (as they are).

I use "should have", because as others have observed, the only interest in both O'Neill and Somare in being the caretaker government is being in control of government resources in the lead up to polling.

It's as simple as that.

Apart from that one aspect which does have significant ramifications on how elections are contested, and possibly how they may be influenced and even won, having Somare and O'Neill argue over the Prime Ministership really is now negligible on PNG.

Harry Topham

Wot a sorry mess

So the video referee fed up with the antics of the players and referees blows his whistle calling fulltime and orders a rematch.

The bloodied players then retire to their bunkers to lick their wounds whilst bemoaning their fate and planning their next moves.

The referees also return to their hallowed halls of so called democracy believing that that they are safe as they are supported by the pillars of democracy only to find that the stone pillars are in fact are only wood that has been mumuted by the former architects of the those structures who originally appearing to be clothed in virtue were in fact only termites.

So come this Wednesday we only can hope that the referees will play by the rules, the players will play the game and not the man against the background that despite the outcome the supporters on both sides, will no doubt, never accept the outcome should the results not meet their expectations- Go the reds.

Nou Vada

Interesting points have been raised... especially with the string on a possible Military confrontation...

If there was ever a time the Melanesian way of conflict resolution was needed, it is now.

If both factions go into a tug o' war using the security forces then we will see a possible destabilisation of security for the Electoral Process... and that won't be good for anyone.

Both sides must consider a coalition caretaker Govt to see the country through elections.

If the Election fails, we are looking at intervention from Aus and maybe America.

PNG is no longer an obscure country to the American Machine... PNG will serve American energy interests in the future and for that the yanks and Oz will pay muach attention to how effectively elections can be conducted.

For the Judges, the Judicial Activism shown thus far is a double-edged sword. While it compounds the constitutional call to develop a melanesian jurisprudence, the danger of furthering destabilization of the country is very real. The Courts are traditionally regarded as "the least dangerous arm" but the way in which our constitution literally cycles the exercise of Power in the three arms is tricky. The system hasnt developed over hundreds of years as in the case of England and Oz. The processes arent entrenched. I remember feeling that all it takes for a meltdown is a bunch of stubborn people in the wrong seats of Power. While Kirriwom J and Injia CJ's refusal to step down at the slightest hint of apprehension is a concern objectively, it also tells a deeper story of how fragile Judicial Power in the Country is, and yet how great the responsibility must be for the Supreme Court as the Office of Judicial Government in the Country... The decision given by Kirriwom J, Gavara-Nanu J and Injia CJ is by and far logical, legal and in order. Imagine what the outcome couldve been if Kirriwom J and Injia CJ wouldve stepped down because of mere allegations of Bias... The Court System wuldve been effectively compromised! That is the scary flipside to the calls that both learned men shouldve stepped down... i mean what if they did... and the SC ended up legitimising a Government that is unconstitutional. You might as well run the Constitution through a shredder eh?

This impasse has been caused by stubborn people who think they can muscle in anything... that might is right.

This is the cause of corruption. Koim calls it a "mobocracy"... When Parlt uses numbers to circumvent the Supreme Court - that is the highest form of mobocracy

Moais Gabuar

Nou & Tavurvur - if you're listening out there, do shed some light on my query. And that is, supposing we have another impasse where O'Namah and Co refuses to accept the SC decision and continue to deny SomAgiru & Co occupation of office.Then we would have a political stalemate (or as 'T' puts it - constipation), whilst we the people (who don't really gives two hoots about it all) are busy casting votes and uncertainty prevails.
What is the possibility of our boys in green at Murray Barracks assuming de-facto authority until the return of writs and a new government is formed to eventually try to make us believe that what has really happened was no fault of theirs and that they will now save this confused country of 'crook'and 'con' politicians?

Colin Huggins

Well at long last, you have been shown on SBS news here in Australia, on this "impasse" in PNG. Somare v's O'Neill and as for who will jump one way or the other to get, just lets say, grubby hands into the trough!
Just keep the "pincers" on, the good will win and also as soon as possible. Young Martyn will have more questions to answer now as he does his Australian tour.

Paul Oates

Let's be blunt and honest about the whole debacle. It's all about who has the opportunity to use the government resources to campaign and dole out public money and privileges to buy votes.

Previously, during and after the last general election, Somare used his position to buy government using government resources including aircraft and funds. He now wants to do the same.

Why else would there be such a problem since the election should now allow the people to decide who makes up the new government?

It is however a sad day when the judiciary apparently wants to get involved in what is essentially a political question. It throws open the question of what happens after the election results are announced and whether there will be continuing legal tussles over the results? With questions being asked about judicial bias, can the PNG people expect total future impartiality from their courts?


Elections will go ahead. Parliament has already risen and the writs have been issued - essentially no one has the power to defer the elections.

Not Parliament; not even the Electoral Commissioner and certainly not the Speaker.

That's the good news.

The concerning news is that those current MPs with vested interests on who will control the government coffers (particularly the Somare/Agiru camp and the O'Neill/Namah camp) will ensure that this issue will not be resolved - for now.

We can expect a dogfight between O'Neill and Somare until the return of the writs on 27 July. PNG will have one more month of political constipation.

Peter Kranz

So what happens now?

Three of the Supremes have ruled in favour of Somare. But elections have been called, the old man has stated he is running, but O'Neill is recalling Parliament.

So do the elections go ahead? Or is the last 9 months or so of government invalid?

Maybe his is the only answer - You don't really love me / You just keep me hanging on.

Mrs Barbara Short

Dear Nou - I just hope and pray that you will become a wise and skilful lawyer and will be able to help stop anything like the recent fiasco happening again.

You might also like to think about becoming a wise and incorruptible politician.

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