Peter O’Neill lied to me about Rio’s decision to quit BCL
Peter O’Neill is comfortable winner of no confidence vote

When the talking ends & the numbers prove immutable, then....


OK, SO here we go. The opposition has put in a strong performance. Don Polye and company have pulled a credible number of MPs their way. And they are talking the winners’ talk.

Commendable politics, perhaps, but all indications are that they will fall well short of the 56 members they need when an acrimonious parliament meets at 10:30 this morning and the crucial vote of no confidence in Peter O’Neill’s prime ministership comes to its climax in the Haus Tambaran.

O’Neill, with a depleted treasury, a struggling economy and parliamentary numbers smaller than they were at the beginning of the week, still seems to have enough political fuel to enable him to walk the victor’s walk.

Ah, the tricks have been frequent. And foul. None fouler than the offer of K3 million in ‘district improvement funds’ to each member who remained or joined the O’Neill camp. Pitched on Wednesday, payable this morning.

(“Good luck if we have money in the account,” quipped the opposition's Sam Basil.)

And what were those departmental heads doing flying to Alotau on a chartered aircraft on Wednesday for what was clearly a political gathering?

Philemon Walpui Tamari named them on Twitter as David Wereh (Works), Dairi Vele (Treasury) and Ken Ngangan (Finance) – all vital men if you’re trying to cement wavering MPs into place. But Alotau was no place for a disinterested public servant.

Media personnel were supposed to make the trip with them but chief secretary Isaac Lupari put the kybosh on that move.

Speaking of Lupari, his brainchild National Joint Security Taskforce (NaSTi), the super surveillance and interception group which gives police and army (the latter acting as special constables) extraordinary powers to prevent ‘threats’ including things like strikes and media reports is back in the news.

Since our report earlier in the week, lawyer Moses Murray - acting for a group of concerned citizens - has said he’ll challenge the legality of NaSTi if the prime minister survives today’s vote of no confidence.

While all this was going on, the O’Neill camp said it had “increased” the number of MPs that would vote its way from 91 to 82. That's the kind of growth economists call 'negative'.

And O’Neill himself was able to pronounce that “in our government we have that next generation of leaders seasoned in the processes of modern governance and leading our country through current global challenges.

“This government is fixing up the legacies of the past and restoring infrastructure that had been left to decay, and government systems that had been run down,” said the great man from the comfort of his slightly seedy parallel universe.

This rosy view of life won the ready support of public enterprise and state investment minister William Duma who felt able to boast that “even when so many countries are facing downturns, our economy will grow by 5% this year”.

That would be negative 5% growth, would it William? Expert economic analysis in PNG Attitude some days ago presented data revealing that, far from growing, the PNG economy was in recession in 2014-15 and, given that things have gone backwards since, is probably in an even worse recession now.

Gary Juffa knows how this works. As a corruption-busting MP who refuses to cosy up to O’Neill, the Oro Governor has been deprived of provincial improvement and other funds and finds basic services in his province suffering as a result.

But, let’s face it, Juffa will soon be joined by most other MPs whether they’re O’Neill’s mates or not. The reason’s simple – the PNG treasury is running out of money. The half billion recently borrowed from Credit Suisse won’t last long and foreign currency is so scarce right now that PNG companies are having to string out overseas creditors to breaking point.

In fact, all the kina’s floating on at the moment is the hot air produced by people like O’Neill, Marape, Duma and their cronies who are hoping the rest of the world is gullible enough to join their pretence that everything is really going wonderfully.

Relatives of slain former MP and businessman Peter Waieng shut down highlands highwayGary Juffa yesterday made a plea to “my brother Charles Abel” (an effective minister and decent human being who I too regard highly), asking him if he could “shed some light [from] the engine room of government? What is happening to the funds that are lawfully due to us?”

Unfortunately, it seems, there is no light in that engine room. Just a grim gloom from which public wealth has been squeezed and squandered and where the only relief comes in the form of a bunch of overseas personal bank accounts and properties.

Ah, I must go. I must be with Papua New Guinea’s friends, shoulders hunched, coats drawn tight, trudging slowly into that darkness, pondering, as Michael Dom has written, “What future lies in our hands? / Who will fulfill this people’s destiny?”

Let's hope, whatever happens, it's peaceful. But the signs are not good.


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Bernard Corden

As Mark Latham states in his book The Political Bubble........democracy is government of the people, by the people for the people and it has dedenerated into government versus the people.
In PNG it will soon be people versus the government.

Francis Nii

Every wickedness has a cost. At the ripe time the perpetrator will pay each his price. Only time will reveal.

Peter Sandery

An excellent summation, Keith, perhaps could be re-titled - "For Whom the Drums Cry' - with apologies to long gone authors.

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