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From cusp of defeat, O’Neill’s stunning attempt to seize election

O'Neill & cohorts at government house (A Rheeney)KEITH JACKSON

THE headlines variously read ‘O'Neill 'invited' to form government’, 'O'Neill gets tap to form government' and ‘People's National Congress invited to form PNG government’,

Naive headlines that gave a hint of legitimacy and respectability to what occurred in Papua New Guinea Friday.

But the day had witnessed the most breathtaking ploy yet in what has been a national election liberally laced with fraud, deceit, bribery, violence and manipulation.

With counting in 23 of the 111 seats still incomplete, electoral commissioner Paulias Gamato – already under a cloud for his conduct of the election – advised the governor-general that Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress commanded enough seats to form a government – a palpable lie.

By Friday afternoon PNC had won only one-quarter of the seats declared.

“I certify that the People’s National Congress party has won the largest number of declared seats in the 2017 national election, Your Excellency," Mr Gamato said, “accordingly I advise that you call on the public officer of the PNC to receive the invitation on behalf of the party.”

As political commentator and prominent blogger Martyn Namorong tweeted: “We’ve essentially witnessed a coup unfold in Port Moresby this afternoon.”

Of course it was a ‘coup’ that will have to be tested in parliament – should it be recalled – but the very fact that O’Neill can wear the prime ministerial badge during the period when loyalties are being tested is a ploy to drag wavering members-elect to the PNC and so attempt to consolidate its numbers on the floor of the house.

With the numbers seeming to be very close between the PNC coalition and its newly invigorated and numerically stronger opposition, every vote is important.

But nothing in conventional politics explains what has been O’Neill’s breathtaking attempt to steal an election that was apparently slipping out of his grasp.

Parliament is due to sit next Friday for the formation of government and it has yet to be seen whether a prime minister who has dishonoured many of the conventions and protocols so far will honour one of the most important of all, the ability of an elected parliament to freely determine who shall govern the country.

“We’re look forward to forming government in the coming days and we believe the PNC has been given a mandate under the laws of this country governing the electoral process,” Mr O’Neill told a media conference.

Electoral commissioner Gamato, whose performance in this election has been appalling, professed that it was “unfortunate” that so many seats were undeclared.

Meanwhile, the PNG ombudsman Michael Dick made an heroic effort to preserve democratic values by filing an urgent application for the extension of writs, which the courts granted until Monday. At the time of writing it was uncertain whether the government would comply.

An outraged registrar of political parties, Alphonse Gelu, also called for an extension of time for the return of writs.

But it seemed all in vain; the governor-general was entertaining prime minister O’Neill and besuited cohorts William Duma and Powes Parkop and sharing a glass of celebratory orange juice with them (top picture).

The growing PNG Alliance coalitionAt the same time, reports SBS’s Stefan Armbruster, violent post-election clashes and gun battles continued in Duma’s backyard in the highlands and there was an attempted kidnapping of a candidate at gunpoint at Port Moresby international airport by alleged PNC elements.

Mt Hagen is in lockdown and local media have posted footage showing crowds of people fleeing gunfire in the streets. Tensions escalated as results were progressively declared and challenged, Armbruster reported.

While O’Neill was having his faux government sworn in, the growing alliance of parties (left) determined to remove him from power said it was confident it will have the support of enough MPs to form a new government next week.

The coalition includes the next two biggest parties after PNC, National Alliance and Pangu Pati.

Radio New Zealand International said it was unclear how many of the remaining MPs-elect to be declared will attend the crucial first sitting of parliament.

In Canberra, Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop refused to say whether she considered the election free and fair until after “final reports” from four Australian parliamentarians who observed the poll, according to PNG commentators in circumstances that would have left them without much idea of what had transpired.

LegitimacyBut Ms Bishop admitted that “Australia provided extensive technical advice and logistical support to PNG’s election authorities”. This included assistance in compiling the catastrophically inadequate and criminally rorted common roll.

Beyond that, there was no substantive comment other than an unintentionally ironic “we will continue to work with PNG to help strengthen its electoral system.”

As Australian reader David Harley‏ tweeted, “Hey @JulieBishopMP how long are we going to ignore these goings on to our north?”


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Lindsay F Bond

Class Photo for Alotau Campus (31/7/2017) appears mostly of grass, less to sea as to their right and puts paid to their having a collective of some rank.

Daniel Kumbon

PNG's 111 members of parliament are leaders. The are not world leaders but leaders just the same.

I wonder how many of them would want to learn from one of the world's greatest leaders - Nelson Mandela who lived to be nearly 100.

What Leaders Can Learn From Mandela’s Selflessness and Sacrifice

By Simon Sinek

With the loss of Nelson Mandela, not only did we lose a great man, but we also lost one of the great modern examples of what leadership looks like.

Though we may debate who in the world is a good leader, Mandela is universally regarded as a great one. He certainly has his share of detractors, but their criticisms prove only that he was undeniably human.

His imperfections by no means detract from what he represented as a leader, chief of which was his capacity for personal sacrifice.

Leadership is a service. And service comes with sacrifice. The sacrifices one person is willing to make for the good of others can take many forms. The giving of one’s time and energy is certainly a sacrifice. Unlike money, time and energy are nonredeemable. Once we spend it, there is no getting it back.

The willingness to sacrifice one’s own interests or comfort, so that others may advance or be protected, is another example. Like a parent who feeds their child before themselves, the willingness to put the interests of others first is a sure sign of leadership. But perhaps the single most powerful sacrifice, the one sacrifice that is core to all great leaders, is the willingness to sacrifice their authority.

In physics, power is defined as the transfer of energy. In a light bulb, for example, electricity is transferred into light and heat. A 100-watt light bulb is more powerful than a 60-watt light bulb because there is more energy transferred.

The same is true in leadership. It is a leader’s ability to transfer their authority to others that actually gives them their power.

In a command and control structure, authority is hoarded at the top. This may be good for the short term and it may be good for the few people in key positions, but ultimately the organization will suffer in time.

When authority is kept at the top, it is more likely that factions will emerge and compete for favor rather than work together for the good of the whole. In contrast, a leader that distributes their authority empowers their people to take responsibility to advance the group’s interests.

In organizations like these, information is shared, mistakes aren’t hidden and innovation thrives. When our leaders give us the authority to make decisions, we feel inspired to make our own sacrifices to see their vision advanced.

Nelson Mandela, when elected president of South Africa, chose to serve only one term. Instead of trying to stay in power as long as possible, he decided that, for the post-apartheid South Africa to succeed, it would be best if he transfer his authority sooner than he had to.

Unfortunately, a good too many of our leaders today look more like hoarders of authority, a strategy that is usually better for the individual in the leadership position than the people who want to be led.

Our politicians fight to win, to keep themselves and their respective parties in power. They seem to spend more time working to consolidate power instead of sharing it to get things done.

Despite what they say, these are not the actions of those in service, those willing to sacrifice their personal ambitions for the greater good.

Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi all went to jail instead of abandoning their beliefs. Our politicians seem more keen to abandon their beliefs to stay in office.

There are few good examples of great leadership in business today either.

With the rise in popularity of layoffs as a first choice option to balance the books, a strategy that only started to gain popularity in the 1980s, it seems a good too many leaders of companies today would sooner sacrifice their people to save the numbers than sacrifice the numbers to save their people.

That’s like getting rid of one of your children to protect the car payments. No sacrifice. No service. No leaders.

With Nelson Mandela gone, the bench is looking mighty thin. There are few leaders in big business or in politics today who seem to exist on a level higher than their office.

Few are willing to sacrifice their ambitions or their interests for the good of the group. Which is why so few are able to command the love of their people. Which, as it turns out, is what gives all the great leaders all their power. And with power, great leaders do great things.

Ideas are not set in stone. When exposed to thoughtful people, they morph and adapt into their most potent form.

TEDWeekends will highlight some of today’s most intriguing ideas and allow them to develop in real time through your voice!

Tweet #TEDWeekends to share your perspective or email to learn about future weekend’s ideas to contribute as a writer.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I can just see it Paul.

"G'day Mal. I'm going to rort this election but if you so much as utter a word I'll make sure Manus blows up in your face. Got it?"

"Er, umm, harumph, er, whatever you say Pete."

"That's good, now, would you like some cat's piss?"

Lindsay F Bond

No chance screwing down detail of electoral flanges, glory of a fervent functioning democracy now flung from spindle by bolters bared of nutting national imperatives, theirs' anvil of avarice belting dates to avoid due pounding.
Nobbling novice nationhood and constituent neighbours, forging butt frailty, lamentably.
Court 2xG horse shooed, eshewing courtesy?

Johnny Blades

It's certainly compelling Phil.

Solomons political parties do have their own niche for abducting MPs-elect and locking them in hotel compounds at coalition lobbying time; and Vanuatu's rogue MPs have been serial pigs to the trough where allegiances to a govt coalition is concerned; but PNG is another level of political gangsterism altogether!

Most of all, it's just sad for the great country that PNG is. It feels like people are utterly sick of this carry-on.

Paul Oates

The full import and Turnbull's visit to Moresby just before the election now seems obvious. O'Neill extracted a promise that if Turnbull et al wouldn't get involved then O'Neill wouldn't raise Manus.

You only have to connect the dots to work out why the Australian political leaders have been so quiet. Absolutely despicable.

It will all come back and bite us in the end.

William Dunlop

Ali Baba Peter O'Neill did it his way in 2012. Now he is still doing it in his crooked way in the 2017 elections.

PNGns, for the sake of you and your children and future generations, it's time to cry enough.

Be positive and stop this rot before it completely consumes your entire nation.

Daniel Kumbon

After much chaos, bloodshed and confusion, all Enga seats have been declared, only counting for the Kandep Seat was suspended.

Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas won back the Regional Seat. He joined forces with other PNC members in the Alotau Camp.

Rimbink Pato, leader of United Party won back his Wapenamanda seat but I have no idea to which camp he was headed.

Also not sure which camp the new member elect for Lagaip Porgera, Tomait Kapili, went to. He defeated THE’s Dickson Magape.

Another upset was the election of independent candidate Dr Lino Tom who ousted PNC’s Robert Ganim for the Wabag seat.

I saw on Facebook, Dr Lino being welcomed by Kompiam Ambum MP and PNC man John Pundari in Port Moresby on Friday night.

But Pundari’s name is not on a list of members in the Alotau Camp. Might get there over the weekend.

But it was good to see Dr Lino, a medical doctor being welcomed by John Pundari a former banker. They represent remote places in their electorates like Yengis. Lapalama, Maramuni and Penale which are only accessible by air.

They both know the current health, education and economic conditions of these outlying places in Enga province and PNG as whole.

One can only hope that God leads all Enga members to make the right decision for the sake of all our people.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I love the photograph of the PNC guys lined up swilling what looks like cat's piss in champagne glasses.

Johnny Blades must be loving this stuff - it leaves the shenanigans in Vanuatu and the Solomons for dead.

Lindsay F Bond

Report: “…accepting the invitation from the Governor-General to form the new Government”
already blasted as bovine ballast, not lawful bestowal from ballots.

Is Loop lazy or looped? Buzz words from PO'N or spin-ED from Loop?

Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

Julie Bishop is merely a flowerpot. Just sit there and look pretty for the cameras. Her brief role as shadow treasurer provided substantive evidence covering her competency as a cabinet minister.
Most Australians would be unable to afford her weekly expenditure on hairdressing, clothing and accessories.
Then take a look at the performance of her former lover, Ross Lightfoot - a colourful racing identity is a somewhat appropriate descriptor.

Lindsay F Bond

One duty for the 'Head of State' is to fix the time and date on which the Parliament shall meet for the first time after a general election as is required by the 'Organic Law on the calling of Meetings of the Parliament'.

Minor technicality, where can viewers access the "notice published in the National Gazette after the date fixed for the return of the writs for the general election"?

The Electoral Commission (vested in one office-holder) has steadfastly held to a 'date fixed for the return of the writs for the general election', and is likely relieved if that date is not challenged as to its validity. Circumstances detract?

The 'Head of State' (vested in one office-holder) is likely relieved if a notice is duly published. Procedurally proppa?

Now, when and where actual announcement of a 'first time' in 2017?

And, what effect is there in the 'Head of State' granting permission to extend the dealine for the remaining writs from seats that are yet to be declared?

Dealine dates:
Return of total writs due 24/7/2017
Return of total writs extended to 28/7/2017
Return of some writs, individual extensions under special circumstance, dates not announced
PNG Parliament to sit 4/8/2017, expectation of Electoral Commissioner 28/7/2017

From the Electoral Commissioner:
“It would be good if the remaining electorates complete their counting and make their declarations before parliament first meets…”

Question to Electoral Commission:
Does the office of Electoral Commission hold to a view that to ‘complete their counting and making their declarations’ are not essential to lawful conduct of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea?

Albert E.G. Schram

From rotten tomatoes to reconstituted orange juice. Most unappetizing.

Philip Fitzpatrick

How on earth is this going to work?

With 88 members only, presumably O'Neill can claim government with just 45 PNC members, leaving 43 in opposition.

If the 23 missing writs favour the opposition there could be a government of 45 PNC members and an opposition of 66 members. Or variations thereof but still with an opposition numerically larger than the government.

It can't be solved with a no confidence motion.

Presumably O'Neill is hoping members will desert the opposition before the 23 writs are finalised.

As Martyn notes - if it looks like a coup and sounds like a coup, it's a coup.

What the hell is Julie Bishop doing? Out shopping for outfits for her next overseas jaunt no doubt.

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