Kramer claims that opposition is now able to form a government. O'Neill, Abel, Chan & other leaders left out in cold by defections
KEITH JACKSON & SOURCES
NOOSA - With more government coalition members joining the self-styled 'Alternative Government', giving it the majority of members in parliament, Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill this afternoon said he had handed the weakened chalice of national leadership to ageing former leader Sir Julius Chan.
At a media conference in Port Moresby, O'Neill said recent changes in party allegiances had signalled a "need for change".
But it was not immediately apparent whether his stepping down was a political ruse or a genuine attempt to see if Chan could form a new government.
There was a view in PNG this afternoon that Chan's attempted elevation was a move to bring disaffected MPs back to the government camp but that O'Neill would continue to exercise power from the deputy's position.
But that is not how the numbers are currently running as O'Neill, in any capacity, seems to have lost grip of his parliamentary majority.
Following the defection of another MP to opposition ranks today, late this afternoon the Alternative Government was claiming 63 of the 111 MPs, which spokesman Bryan Kramer said was the "lock down" number". This would give it a decisive majority when parliament resumes on Tuesday and, in these circumstances, Chan would not survive as leader.
Leading opposition figure Bryan Kramer said that no further government members "will be allowed to join the Laguna camp" where the opposition has assembled because, he said, "the new government is in the house".
He said O'Neill, Abel, Basil, Chan and Wingti are now "officially the opposition in waiting".
It is still not certain who will be elected leader of this newly formed coalition, although there have been a number of contenders who have expressed their ambitions.
But a middle choice achieving some traction is former attorney-general Kerenga Kua, from the highlands province of Simbu, who carries with him no political baggage and is widely regarded as a progressive force and a nation-builder.
O'Neill technically remains prime minister as PNG Attitude understands he has not yet submitted a resignation letter to the governor-general, an important formality which would enable Chan to take the reins.
Namorong also pointed out that, if O'Neill has resigned, under the PNG constitution Charles Abel, his current deputy, would take over the top job, not Chan.
But with the opposition forces now likely to garner even more government defectors seeking fame and fortune with a new government (including forest minister Douglas Tomuresia who just joined the opposition's Laguna Hotel camp for the second time as he desperately sniffs the breeze), it is likely Chan's elevation to the top job will be more of a hospital pass than an enduring gift.
As Roland Raintangken joked on Twitter, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to witness the shortest serving PM in PNG, PM Sir Julius Chan."
More information as it comes to hand.