Peter O’Neill: Appalling governance from our worst PM ever
21 June 2016
“THE best ever PM the country has ever had since independence,” claimed a commentator to PNG Attitude. The majority of us Papua New Guineans thinks otherwise.
The father of the nation, Michael Thomas Somare, had his cold days. Between 2002 and 2011 his government was engulfed in rumours of widespread corruption and nepotism.
The people were frustrated with Somare’s children and some handpicked ministers, called the ‘kitchen cabinet’, who were dominating all decisions of the executive.
Then many Papua New Guineans became unhappy with the Grand Chief’s prolonged absence when he was hospitalised in Singapore.
His illness facilitated the 2011 political impasse which allowed Peter O’Neill to ascend to the top post supported ably by ex-defence force officer and Vanimo Green MP, Belden Nema.
This was interpreted by many people as unconstitutional and a coup. However, due to its prolonged dissatisfaction with the Somare government, the public generally supported the change.
After the 2012 election, O’Neill became prime minister of the coalition government. Subsequently, during his current term in parliament, corruption, scandal and deceit reached levels never seen in the history of this country.
The O’Neill government has been accused of rendering irrelevant the institutions of parliamentary democracy and, because of this, it seems his government might be immovable.
It has even tampered with the national constitution to bolster its position by making it difficult for the opposition to move a motion of no confidence. The opposition has attempted such a vote four times without success.
O’Neill appointed a commander of the defence force from his own district of Ialibu-Pangia and currently there are accusations that 70% of the new recruits into the army are from that relatively small part of PNG.
So far he has appointed three police commissioners (he’s big on the ‘hire and fire’) and one is in gaol. And he has appointed cohorts to other key agencies including the central bank. He has the backing of and is prayed to by prominent Pentecostal Christian pastors.
He disbanded Investigation Task Force Sweep, an anti-corruption unit he set up to investigate corruption in government agencies. When the team began investigating him, O’Neill quickly trashed a unit that had just been too effective.
When Sweep got a court order to remain in business, O’Neill countered this by cutting off its funding. Chairman Sam Koim worked for a year without pay but that couldn’t go on forever.
Among the issues that form the shadowy picture of Peter O’Neill are the National Provident Fund rip-off, the Paul Paraka K71.8 million ‘fee’ saga, the K3 billion UBS loan, the K144 million LR Group Generators deal, the expropriation of Ok Tedi, and tendering issues around the K2 billion Pacific Games and the K160 million Kumul fly-over.
Not one of these matters satisfactorily answered.
These are far too many issues for any one politician and in any democracy. A prime minister presiding over such controversies in any democratic country have listened to the voices of the people and stepped aside. But not PNG’s Peter O’Neill.
Many times O’Neill has been accused of not telling the truth on important national issues. For example his words on the so-called forward fixed sales contract for PNG LNG sales. He also told the nation that revenue from PNG LNG would not be affected by the oil price slump. Then he said the PNG LNG revenues were kept safe in a trust account in the central bank.
It was revealed later that the money has been directed into an escrow account in Singapore to service the K3 billion UBS loan.
These deceits and intimations of corruption have created a major and continuing public outcry in PNG such as we have never seen before. Many Papua New Guineans are demanding O’Neill’s resignation.
Since 2012, Peter O’Neill has come up with two policies - free education and free health care, both now in serious trouble – but there has been a consistent let down in strategic vision and planning. Plans are talked up and unfailingly fall apart in implementation.
Much education and health funding goes missing and is not reaching the intended population. For example, at the end of 2015 and in 2016, schools were complaining that their ‘tuition free fee’ components were not received. Also budgeted funds for health programs in the provinces were also not fully received in 2015 and 2016.
On 8 June 2016, a highly trained group of the PNG police, the Special Services Unit, fired on a peaceful protest by students of the University of PNG. More than 30 casualties resulted and two are reportedly still fighting for their lives at Port Moresby General Hospital.
The prime minister and his coalition using their numerical strength to suspend parliament in the very same hour students were being shot.
A few minutes prior to the move for adjournment, O’Neill accused the students of inciting trouble and played down the issue. Some MPs even yelled, “Ol husa!?” (a contemptuous ‘Who are they?’), referring to the students.
The police commissioner also blamed the students as instigators and said the police had a constitutional duty to protect people and property. So they can shoot live bullets into a crowd of peaceful and nonviolent students?
Condemnations of the shooting poured in from all over the world including the United Nations. O'Neill and commissioner Baki didn’t care.
I would hardly call prime minister Peter Charles Paire O’Neill the “best ever PM the country has ever had since independence”.
In reality, most Papua New Guineans regard him as our worst prime minister ever.
No comments yet on the recent visit of Robert Mugabe, president and dictator of Zimbabwe.
One might ask if PM O'Neill was seeking advice as to how to organise a Zimbabwe dictatorship.
Given his recent appointments to the defence force and recruits from his own province he may be trying to establish his own personal security force beholden only to him and not the nation a la Hitler's SS.
I am a Kiap of long ago who weeps for those wonderful PNG people.
Posted by: Des Martin ML JP | 23 June 2016 at 10:34 AM
Not that I'm suggesting anything.
A motivational trainer in China beat eight rural bank employees with a stick, shaved the heads of the men and cut the hair of the women after they performed poorly on a training weekend.
“Spanking was a training model I have been exploring for many years,” the trainer, Jiang Yang, said on his microblog, absolving the bank’s leadership of direct responsibility.
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 22 June 2016 at 09:45 AM
PNG hosted the ACP Summit in Port moresby recently. So much money is being spent on prestige projects while the Okuk Highway, a vital infrastucture that sustains the national economy is deteriorating very fast.
There is a billboard along the highway at the junction into the Kagamuga airport with a blown up portrait of Mr Oneill looking down on the unsuspecting motorists and passers by. The writing on the bb
reads: 'We will upgrade the Okuk Highway from Lae to Tari.'
This billborad has been erected almost a year or two ago.
The big question is this: When will the PNG Govt rehabilitate the Okuk Highway?
Marcus, I wholly agree with you that such high profile meetings and the seemimgly fanciful sporting facilities do not mean any thing to an average person trying to survive on a daily basis.
We must all support the tertiary students in their bid to remove Oneill from power.
Posted by: Paul Waugla Wii | 21 June 2016 at 05:24 PM
Straight out of the O'Neill propaganda machine. Propaganda bordering on hypocrisy.
Statement: Prime Minister Hon. Peter O’Neill - K8 billion in trust funds gone missing between 2002 and 2010....
Posted by: Marcus Mapen | 21 June 2016 at 04:38 PM
I live in Moresby. I don’t have a paid job so every day I struggle to make ends meet. I work hard just to have food daily on the table.
An outsider (from say Australia) who sees me in my life situation will correctly say that I am living in poverty. But it is not just me; millions of my countrymen are in this same situation (many worse than me).
I know this is true because I see it everywhere I go in this country with my own eyes.
Fancy sporting facilities, high level meetings and colorful economic statistics (even economics itself) mean f**k all to me.
All I care about is the price of tinned fish and rice and my bus fare. Right now these prices are increasing at rates I am finding hard to cope.
Posted by: Marcus Mapen | 21 June 2016 at 03:54 PM
Marcus Mapen, you are right on the button. Unfortunately Somare's siblings let him and PNG down badly.
Posted by: William Dunlop | 21 June 2016 at 11:09 AM
Comey Korokan Alone. Pray may I ask what is your role in the Ali Baba O'Neill gravy train? Amen.
Posted by: William Dunlop | 21 June 2016 at 11:03 AM
The realities in remote Telefomin, Karimui, Menyamya, Lumi in terms of access to the most basic services; health care, education roads/ bridges are quite unbelievable, but we have people who are adamant all is well.
I come from Karimui and I literarily cry each time I come to the village and see how my people carry on.
Sporting facilities in Port Moresby do not represent the majority of rural places in this country. Tell you something; people in these very remote locations don't even know of these sporting facilities, they don't care. If the Queen of England dies tomorrow, they won't know and won't care.
The laplap and the shorts they wear they have worn each day for the last two months. If they are lucky, they have a tin fish and rice meal once in a month.
There are two extremes here in PNG - Port Moresby, Peter O'Neill, the MPs and a few in that bracket in Port Moresby; and the majority 80% in PNG.
This place needs a clean sweep in 2017.
Posted by: Mathias Kin | 21 June 2016 at 11:00 AM
Corney Korokan Alone is counting on sports. The question is, how will sports be benefiting all the citizens of this country. What about the people in the remotest part of this country, who are facing better health care problems.
Posted by: Jay Manaseh | 21 June 2016 at 09:24 AM
It is easy to read where inductive unhappiness such as this is pivoting to.
Lazy readers will easily be bought. But not all, unfortunately.
If a K2 billion investment in the well known sporting industry can move the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) body to favour Papua New Guinea to be the host country for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in PNG - given its world class sporting infrasturctures; one needs to explain what the K8 billion that disappeared from the many trust accounts during Somare's prime ministership could have done, where it is parked and what they have done about it. http://www.primeminister.gov.pg/#!-Prime-Minister-Hon-Peter-O%E2%80%99Neill-K8-billion-in-trust-funds-gone-missing-between-2002-and-2010-/csf/556e49f80cf2312d79679227
These sporting facilities are for all sporting codes. The PNG Hunters club- followed by many Papua New Guineans have a world class facility to call it their home ground. It's an envy of the other Australian clubs playing in this same competition.
Papua New Guinea has its own story to write - and yes, tell it, and broadcast it with pride and confidence than being narrated by loop-sided external media outlets.
The sporting industry creates job opportunities for sporting personalities as well as associated industries.
So any crusade against such investments needs to be critically assessed.
The UBS loan is an investment decision for Papua New Guinea's future - strategically approached to graduate the country from a mere royalty recipient to a part owner (shareholder) in the economic opportunities presented by the country's hydro-carbon market. The hydro-carbon industry is not dissipating anytime soon notwithstanding the development created by sustainable and clean energy sources.
The cyclical slump in that industry's commodity prices is not a solid point of argument to dis our government. Many other governments and economies are experiencing this pain.
The rest of your arguments are comprehensively shut down by the Prime Minister's lengthy response. You can read about them again here and come back should you feel, you still have some unsettled issues to settle. http://www.primeminister.gov.pg/#!-Letter-from-Prime-Minister-O%E2%80%99Neill-to-the-University-of-Papua-New-Guinea-and-the-PNG-University-of-Technology-Student-Representative-Councils-/csf/5742b76c0cf23d79ac908b22
Posted by: Corney Korokan Alone | 21 June 2016 at 08:45 AM
In my mind I compare all the prime ministers of PNG since independence in 1975 and give them a rating between ten (10) and one (1). Number 10 for who I think is/was the best PM so far and 1 for who I think is/was the worst. I have Michael Somare on 10 at the top end and Bill Skate on one (1) at the bottom end, the rest come in between. The current PM is in a different category altogether. Catergory zero (0) and going towards minus (-).
Posted by: Marcus Mapen | 21 June 2016 at 08:31 AM
Good critique, Mathias. Of course, it remains to be seen as to the ease of supportability by in-country commentators.
A certain degree of paranoia will exist among PNGeans after the shooting incident proved cornered rats will bite.
Until more comprehensive results of the student led info-war are evident in a changing and solidifying of public angst and opinion, it seems there is not a coherent and unified front to the political opposition.
Posted by: Robin Lillicrapp | 21 June 2016 at 07:17 AM