"WE BELIEVE in dreams,” said opposition leader Don Polye yesterday as he called upon Peter O’Neill’s coalition allies [right] to abscond and join his ‘Fathers of the Nation’ group. “These dreams will be provided by this team.”
He was speaking at the opposition’s ‘camp’ at Port Moresby’s Laguna Hotel far away from O’Neill’s squadrons in far away Alotau.
"This team is solid and the number is growing firmly and strong,” the Don added, sounding confident that the likes of Sir Michael Somare and Sir Julius Chan has given the opposition’s insurgency the boost it needs.
“We won’t tell you the numbers, but our numbers are growing and you’ll see it on Friday as we form the new government."
Quite a pitch.
Meanwhile Ben Micah, who threw in his ministerial job to join the opposition in its bid to oust Peter O’Neill, complained about not receiving from the prime minister the funds he expected to develop his New Ireland Province [more below].
Former justice minister Kerenga Kua, now also batting for the opposition, went further to say Peter O’Neill was a serial law breaker and that enticing government MPs to Alotau was a criminal offence and an act of bribery.
And Transparency International PNG chairman Lawrence Stephens called on politicians to pay particular attention to anti-bribery laws as upcoming vote of no-confidence drove a desperate scramble for votes.
Matters of honour and dishonour featured in the lexicon of the day as Papua New Guinea moved closer to the crucial no confidence vote that will determine the immediate future of prime minister Peter O'Neill and his government.
Mr Stephens quoted the Criminal Code Act which frowns severely on “fraud, threats or intimidation of any kind to influence a member of the Parliament in his vote”.
“We encourage any MP who feels that she or he is being coerced to read Section 97c of the Criminal Code Act and at the earliest opportunity report the matter to a commissioned police officer,” Stephens added hopefully.
At the same time he reminded politicians of a 2015 Transparency survey that revealed four of every five Papua New Guineans regard MPs as the main causative agents of corruption and that more than half of the respondents said they had personally paid a bribe.
“There are rumours of massive cash movements in political circles at present,” Stephens said. “Hopefully there is no truth in the rumours, but nevertheless it is a good time for each of us to reflect on the law and the reason for the law.
“As Papua New Guineans, we deserve leaders who will abide by the laws that they make,” he said.
Meanwhile Ben Micah was also reflecting on similar questions, especially in relation to the provincial support and district services improvement programs, largesse provided to favoured MPs to distribute as they see fit.
“We only received K1 or K2 million but not the promised K10-15 million,” Micah said. “We have gone past the halfway mark for this year and there is no DSIP. This illusion about DSIP is only a dream that the prime minister, treasurer Pruaitch and finance minister Marape promised me and MPs. This has not happened.
“I am not a tool to be manipulated. I’m calling on the MPs in Alotau not to be manipulated by someone to be used to destroy this nation.”
And Kerenga Kua was laying on the alleged illegalities with a trowel. "You know the balus ticket [to Alotau] is a bribe, the pocket allowance is a bribe, the food they are eating down there is a bribe, the hotel rooms they are sleeping in is a bribe, those are enticements, those are acts of bribery, they are all criminal offences, they are undue influences, they are both crimes and they are both misconduct of public office.”
But, in the ultimate consideration, it seems it will be the winners who decide what is a bribe and what is a legitimate expense of representing the will of the people.
But in the laying-it-on-thick department, it was O’Neill supporter and minister for fun Justin Tkatchenko who won gold with his criticism of defector Micah.
"I think Ben Micah was the one that caused the issue with the [protesting] students,” said Tkatchenko. “He was the one right behind it. He was the one that manipulated the situation.”
And in the midst of all this finger-pointing, opposition stalwarts Belden Namah and Sam Basil took an opportunity to point fingers at themselves when they apologised to Sir Michael Somare for overthrowing his government in 2011.
"Today I take this time to say sorry for what happened,” said Namah. While Basil said he was still ashamed of calling Sir Michael Somare "a stranger in the chamber" in 2011 when Somare was pushed into the chamber in a wheelchair after a long hospitalisation in Singapore.
In the wide mountain valley where sits Goroka in the PNG highlands, sometime political candidate and poet Jeffrey Mane Febi introduced us to the term, Mauspas Politics, which, said Jeffrey, “refers to the perpetual silence of our elected MPs over issues of national importance and their constant reluctance to participate meaningfully in parliamentary debates.
“Since some overwhelmingly illiterate electorates in Eastern Highlands Province are known for electing intellectually challenged MPs, the obvious reason would be ignorance.
“And this political ignorance overwhelms and defeats genuine attempts at alleviating it. How long this continues is anyone's guess.”
I think I can vouchsafe that in these short paragraphs Jeffrey has nailed one of the critical problems in PNG politics.
And let me finish today’s wrap with the always formidable words of Governor Gary Juffa (seen at left with friend in yesterday's pic of the day); with the words directed at his fellow parliamentarians:
You were not elected to be herded like sheep and forced to follow and be intimidated into silence... Remember that you have a serious fundamental responsibility: Papua New Guinea first.
Members you can either be leaders or mere politicians. Today the nation is rising up against what is essentially tyranny; nature is against the significant threat posed to this nation....
Do not be blinded by mere crumbs...the 30 pieces of silver buying your silence and complicit support for the betrayal of your nation and people. If you accept it you have blood on your hands, the blood of your people.
Today you will determine whether we as a nation will fall or rise.... Hear your people, it is they who have put you in parliament.