THE counting and declaration of winning candidates in the 2017 elections is nearing completion and lobbying leading to the formation of a new government has begun.
This will intensify in the coming days and, while this horse trading continues, elected members need to bear in mind that the people’s mandate is not for them to sell or for others to buy.
Indications are that the battle will be between a Pangu-National Alliance led grand coalition, assembling in Goroka, and a group led by the governing People’s National Congress who are camping in Alotau.
Peter O’Neill will definitely be the prime ministerial nominee for the PNC-led Alotau team.
O’Neill will not relinquish the prime ministership to another PNC member or anyone else because some actions and decisions made during his tenure as prime minister are subject to investigation by a new prime minister.
Hence wants – perhaps needs - to be at the centre of power so he can keep the lid on.
Deputy PM Leo Dion has been defeated leaving that senior post for O’Neill to use as bait to lure leaders of other to join PNC. The target might also be offered a senior ministry and a golden handshake as well.
Given the integrity displayed by Pangu Party leader Sam Basil, and his strong stance against corruption, I’d be betting that he will definitely not take O’Neill’s bait.
National Alliance leader Patrick Pruaitch, although quiet since his victory as the re-elected member for Aitape-Lumi, is likely to take the same stance as Basil.
Pruaitch attacked O’Neill’s economic management on the eve of the election and was duly sacked by O’Neill. It is possible, but seems unlikely, that this big difference will be bridged – especially if Pruaitch can secure a prime job in a new non-O’Neill government.
That said, there is plenty of a precedent for u-turns and backflips in PNG politics.
After the 2012 election, the National Alliance under Grand Chief Michael Somare surprisingly backed O’Neill and made him prime minister.
This came after Somare’s power and credibility was torn apart, tarnished and muddied in the 2011 political impasse led by O’Neill and Belden Namah while the Grand Chief lay critically ill in a Singapore hospital.
But I don’t think history will repeat this time. Pruaitch is a learned leader and is fully aware of the mess created under the O’Neill’s regime.
My assessment is he will not be part of it again even if he is offered the deputy prime minister’s post.
If Pruaitch does take the bait, he can expect a split within the National Alliance as its president and member-elect for Namatanai, Walter Schnaubelt, has categorically stated that he is a corruption fighter and suggested that ge will join the Goroka team.
The position of Sir Julius Chan and his People’s Progress Party isn’t clear. His statement at the declaration of his Kavieng seat highlighted fence-sitting. PPP is likely to follow the tide.
The Pangu-NA team has been boosted by firebrand politicians Kerenga Kua, Gary Juffa, Belden Namah, Alan Marat, Bire Kimisopa, Mekere Morauta, Walter Schnaubelt and retired Air Niugini pilot Lekwa Gure.
The prospect of more members joining the team is high and there is also the prospect of a split in the PNC group as they see O’Neill, with a poor track record, losing his grip on power.
The decision that each elected member makes at this time will determine the destiny of PNG in the years to come.
They must have the interests of the people and country at heart; the people who elected them and the country they are pledged to serve.
Before accepting bribes and other inducements from others, they must first think of the people who gave them the mandate to serve. That mandate is not for them to sell or other people to buy.
The moment they accept a bribe or other enticement, they have sold the rights and mandate of the people and trashed their own integrity and moral principles.
They have become valueless and powerless. The party or leader who bought them will use them and manipulate them. And he will unceremoniously dump them when they are no longer needed.
These newly-minted politicians now have the clearest of choices – to exercise the moral imperative of standing for country and people, or to go down the grubby road of self-aggrandisement and dishonesty.