Two days to go – and bribery looms large in the political rhetoric
20 July 2016
"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.
A very pertinent comment Phil.
It is exactly my experience. They put up with so much angst and despair with an ernormous amount of dignity but when they snap, they don't take any prisoners.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 20 July 2016 at 08:56 PM
What must bother a lot of people in PNG John is that if O'Neill gets the numbers and continues on all hell will break loose.
I know that's not in the PNG character but you can push even the mildest people so far before they explode. And when they do it's usually quite spectacular.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 20 July 2016 at 04:14 PM
We humans are imbued, with what is called conscience - to know what is right and wrong. And the tool to access that faculty is the power of choice. The battle with the vote of no confidence will be a battle between conscience and the power of choice.
Will everything that has happened so far go towards informing the conscience of our current leaders in this parliament, to make the right choice?
Or will they use their power of choice to go with expediency and greed, thereby undermining the urgent need to stem the flow of idiocy that is now drowning out rational discourse and good governance thinking for the greater good?
We are watching; we are already informing our people; we are connecting with like-minded people around the country; and we are encouraging our people in the provinces to pressure their respective MPs to make the right choice. We are all looking forward to the grand show down this Friday.
In an interesting development, we are watching the conduct and reasoning of individual MPs in both camps. They are being judged during this period, and will be judged again come 2017 elections.
Ironically, we the people who matter most have always been the victims in these political games since independence. We deserve better! The country deserves better!
Posted by: John K Kamasua | 20 July 2016 at 01:53 PM
In the midst of the present political confusion and anxiety on the economy of Papua New Guinea, our elected leaders must explore to the extreme of their conscience to make good decisions. Each decision we make have it's repercussions and turn around.
As a Papua New Guinean and through continuous observation of the political upheavals, there is something wrong in the leadership of our Nation which had led us this far.
There must be a change of leadership. If it does not eventuate, then there is a terrible break down in democracy caused by few elites for their own gain. We know who they are.
Posted by: Joe Digiben | 20 July 2016 at 09:03 AM
It is quite refreshing to know that the EHP is known for electing intellectually challenged MPs and Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison et al are not just isolated cases.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 20 July 2016 at 08:49 AM
It really is rather amazing as to how, in a supposedly regulated environment, so much cash can accumulate and be channeled to individuals for the purpose of retaining their vote.
The bar has been raised from SP and lamb flaps to prime fillet, seafood, and champagne.
That alone should provoke public outrage let alone the infamy of live ammo' into student ranks.
Hopefully the pressure will mount now that a wider public sector, increasingly alienated by recent events, rise to a stronger profile of protest.
When the educated elites of industry and shop floor withdraw their labour, you know something is striking home to the national conscience.
Posted by: Robin Lillicrapp | 20 July 2016 at 07:13 AM