New prime minister Marape installed in Papua New Guinea
Dikana ‘Ten Gun’ Boge – great team man who never let you down

James Marape is Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister

James Marape
James Marape is hugged by a supporter after his election yesterday

KATE LYONS | The Guardian

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinean politicians have chosen James Marape as the country’s new prime minister after a tumultuous few months in the country’s political life.

Marape, a former finance minister and sometime ally of the outgoing prime minister Peter O’Neill, was elected by MPs who voted overwhelmingly, 101 to eight, to make him the next leader.

Marape, the member for Tari-Pori in New Hela province was a key minister in O’Neill’s government and his defection from the government to the opposition camp in April accelerated O’Neill’s resignation from office.

For a time he was the opposition bloc’s candidate to replace O’Neill as prime minister, before he was beaten in a secret ballot to become opposition leader by Patrick Pruaitch earlier this week.

In a sign of the fluid nature of PNG politics, after O’Neill resigned officially on Wednesday, Marape and his supporters returned to the government camp.

The vote came after months of turmoil in the Pacific nation, which has seen opposing MPs camped out at different hotels in the country’s capital of Port Moresby, high-level defections between opposing groups, shouting matches on the floor of parliament, and finally, the resignation of former prime minister Peter O’Neill on the floor of parliament on Wednesday.

In his speech after his election on Thursday, Marape said he would make fixing the economy, which he described as “bleeding and struggling”, his priority and sounded a warning to foreign companies working in PNG.

“We will look to maximising gain from what God has given this country from our natural resources. This government is all about putting our country in the right place and taking back our economy … We don’t need foreigners to come in to take advantage of our forestry,” he said.

Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands program said: “In terms of all the likely outcomes today, this is the one that signals most continuity of policy in Papua New Guinea.”

“You kind of wonder what the last three weeks have been about. It clearly was less about policy and much more about personality and the desire to see a change of leadership and to oust Peter O’Neill.

“Marape seems to have secured a vast majority of votes in parliament, so has secured a mandate to lead, but we’ll see how markedly his leadership shifts from Peter O’Neill in the coming weeks.”

O’Neill, who has led PNG since 2011, is only the second prime minister in the young country’s history to have served out a full term.

The election for O’Neill’s replacement was held in PNG’s parliament on Wednesday. Marape beat former prime minister and opposition figure Sir Mekere Morauta.

In a surprising moment in the day’s proceedings, opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch nominated O’Neill as a candidate for the job that O’Neill had resigned just a day earlier. O’Neill initially accepted the nomination and then later withdrew his name from the contest.

O’Neill initially announced he would resign at a media conference on Sunday, but opponents doubted the sincerity of this announcement after O’Neill then sought legal action to block the opposition from holding a vote of no confidence in him.

However, in a speech to parliament on Wednesday, O’Neill said he had visited the governor general that morning to tender his resignation, prompting a vote among MPs for his replacement on Thursday morning.

Going into Wednesday’s parliamentary session, the opposition claimed it had the support of 68 out of the country’s 111 MPs, which would have allowed it to ensure their leader, Patrick Pruatich, a former treasurer, would become the next prime minister.

However after O’Neill officially resigned on Wednesday at least 30 of the country’s MPs returned to the government bloc, including high-profile opponents such as James Marape and William Duma.

Bryan Kramer, an opposition MP who has been one of the O’Neill’s most vocal critics, said that among the opposition’s priorities if it came to power, would be to launch an investigation into O’Neill’s business practices, which have come under severe criticism, including his handling of a multibillion-dollar gas deal that opponents said was a poor outcome for PNG.

Pryke said an investigation into O’Neill is now “incredibly unlikely”.

“Marape and O’Neill, despite their disagreements over the last three weeks, have been very close throughout Marape’s political career,” said Pryke, who said it was likely that O’Neill would be appointed to Marape’s cabinet.

“Keep him close,” said Pryke. “Despite the fact he lost a vote on the floor of parliament yesterday, he’s proven himself to be a master politician.”

O’Neill came to power in 2011 in circumstances that were later ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court. Despite this contentious start, there was a wave of optimism when O’Neill came to power after he initiated an anti-corruption investigation called Task Force Sweep.

However, optimism in O’Neill’s leadership faded after O’Neill became a target of investigations over allegations he authorised payments of $30m for fraudulent legal bills. O’Neill denied the allegations and the government disbanded the task force.

Scandals surrounding his business dealings have continued to dog O’Neill throughout his prime ministership, and he was forced to step down after after high-profile MPs left his government for the opposition over the last month.

“It is important that I vacate this seat, so that we can be able to move on,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

O’Neill listed his achievements as prime ministers included the country’s hosting of the Apec summit last year and the expansion of the education sectors and the delivery of infrastructure projects. He also said his government was able to improve PNG’s global image.


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Bernard Corden

" It is so much easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled" - Mark Twain

Lindsay F Bond

Not being born in PNG, I had to acquire awareness of Arthur's acute statement that "...uniqueness of that political ethos for New Ireland...seems it’s all of PNG".

Torrid times of a Townsville teenage were too slight for comparison of the potential of harm being inflicted among neighbouring clans and communities of pastaim PNG.

Post-conflict lauding of (recent) warriors and wary combatants may be surprising to non-PNG folk.

So too the lead up to this installation of a PM who is not Peter O'Neill but shared the halls if not hauls of parties aiding the former PM.

Getting to know the opposing person is an aspect of intention to succeed, and being entertained in the opposition camp has tactical and empathic tenets.

Arthur Williams

When I saw some of incestuous pictures of the hugging and laughing of recent ‘old enemies’ it really put me off my porridge until I had got back from puking in the toilet.

Mind many of the laughing idiots could do with a bit of porridge at Bomana Jail. No wonder several ex-ministers said after leaving Oh’Neill that they would not be revealing some of the insights they had to the black backstage corruption. I grinned as I saw Puke Temu almost crying as he crawled on his knees back into the old trough. Hope he had some Borneo medical-kit kneepads.

Took me back to my time as member of New Ireland Provincial Assembly in 1988. Pedi Anis was Allah’s answer to a Malaysian logger’s dreams. By trickery he usurped control of the first sitting of the Assembly by one vote.

It was cast by none other than AM Togimar who in our initial caucus meeting had been introduced to us by Sir J as ‘Bone Kwila of the People’s Progress Party’.

He had been suborned by new astute politician Pedi to vote with the Pangu-MA group and defeat Robert Seeto’s PPP led group. The assembly was then adjourned.

That night with our tails between our legs we gathered in the ex-DC’s now Premier’s home on the narrow coronos escarpment overlooking Kavieng harbour. There were talks about raising a judicial challenge to the illegal move of convening the first Assembly Meeting three hours before it had been scheduled; whether we should boycott what we called the ‘illegal’ Assembly until the result of that challenge as well as other moves suggested by stalwart and experienced PPP AMs like Demas Kevavu, Samson Gila, Ferdinad Smare (ex-TIA from Lihir).

Next day Seeto was asked by the pro-tem Premier to vacate the Premier’s house for Pedi to move in. Now as rebels we decided on an act of defiance and continued to occupy it.

Pedi persuaded Elcom to cut off the power supply to the dwelling and so we spent a gloomy night in the light of walk-about lamps. The next move against us was to persuade the Water Board to cut off their vital supply to the house.

I was awoken in the middle of the night to go to the main lounge where we sat down as Seeto explained that the traitor AM Togimar has stealthily crept in to talk to us about his decision to return to his place in the PPP womb. The sad returner spoke to us in an emotional voice and I think I saw his tears of sorrow as he spoke.

Buoyed by the night’s events we happily walked to attend the first full session of the Assembly. As the speaker entered the building we saw that Premier Anis had AM Togimar sitting at his right hand side.

The political moth had flitted back to support him possibly because we soon learnt Togimar became the Deputy Premier allegedly with a promise to become Premier in some ' not too distant' future. We remained in opposition for all three years.

Oh and Sir Julius not too long ago praised Togimar for his many years of faithfulness to the PPP. I hope that's not a sign of memory loss by Oh'Neill's reluctant 36-hour PM

In my post to PNG Attitude on 30 November 2016, ‘Politics, New Ireland style, was no place for the meek’, I quoted Colin Filer from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Papua New Guinea who wrote a paper in which he said:

“The strange thing about New Ireland, in comparison with many other parts of the country, is that it is very hard to tell what anyone really thinks about anything.

"To put it crudely, New Ireland is a place where everyone claims to be acting on behalf of someone else, where no-one really trusts anyone else to act on their behalf, but no-one is prepared to say so publicly, for fear of being disrespectful.

"New Irelanders excel in the virtue of politeness, but the virtue of politeness can easily turn into the vice of dishonesty…..”

In retrospect perhaps he was wrong in claiming the uniqueness of that political ethos for New Ireland. It seems it’s all of PNG.

I could say roll on to 2022 when the electorate can make their views known on the current batch of so called ‘Honourable’ MPs.

Mind in the past the people have voted a rapist, a prisoner, even murderers, adulterers and run of the mill corrupt candidates for public office so until there is a revolutionary change in the mindsets of the majority of its people PNG is destined to be manipulated by rogues at all levels of government and yes commercial activity too.

Ples daun bai yumi tok wanem! Natposok aka ‘White bastard’ as Pedi's Forest Minister once called me in the Assembly.

Kenny Pawa Ambaisi

James is quoted saying "we need to make PNG a richest black nation". I agree with his vision but there's one thing he has to do.

Only by being truthful we can take back PNG. If we are true to our thoughts, word and actions then PNG will be richest Black Nation in the world.

Therefore we have to restore the truth. How can we do that? We have to confess our sins. If we see that we have no sins, we have to reinstate the Task Force Sweep and strengthen the Ombudsman and Prosecution Team to investigate and truly prove that we have no sins. And do answerable as per the investigation.

Then repent on where we went wrong. How do we do that? We have to give important ministerial portfolios to parliamentary members who are free in their mind and can talk straight to the point and make vital decisions like Juffa, Kramer, Lino, Steven, Bird, and others.

These people will restore our lost pride, the economy and the confidence back in the government.

Otherwise, our enemies are not foreigners but those people in our own family, tribe and community. So if we continue to water down the mistakes and wrongs done by our friends, the sin will grow and it will bring the death of these assumed richest black nation. Instead of being the richest black nation, it will be the richest hunting ground for richest white nation.

Paul Oates

In today's news it quotes the new PM as saying he wanted to make his country "the richest black Christian nation" in the world.

Exactly who will benefit and how they will benefit from all these apparently now anticipated riches is yet to be revealed. Clearly, as the recent Finance Minister this was a small oversight that can now be consigned to the past.

He has vocally put all previous development and contracts on notice and claims 'every right to tweak and turn resource laws for my country'.

Amazing how virtually the same team as former PM O'Neill can now see their way clear to a change in direction when a change of leader sees another fellow Highlander to O'Neill assume things will change. Suddenly most of those those 63 who wanted a real change abruptly change sides again and vote 101 to 8 in favour of Marape.

A noticeable MP among the 8 left out in the cold appears to be Sir Mekere who of course comes from Papua.

PNG watchers always expected a Highlands dominated takeover and its happened again.

So with suspiciously no information or comments from all those who changed their opinions and why, one is given to speculation (based on past performances), of the probable cause.

I somehow think my hat is still safe, Keith.

Perhaps you should await the announcement of the ministry - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

Have you noticed that when a company advertises a ‘new and improved’ version of a product it often doesn’t work as well as the old one but usually costs more?

There must be an aphorism for this truism along the lines of Murphy’s Law or the Peter Principle but I haven’t been able to find one.

However the law or principle is defined it’s something worth considering now that the dust is starting to settle on all the machinations that have occurred among Papua New Guinea’s politicians.

In particular it’s worth asking whether James Marape is simply a new and improved version of Peter O’Neill who might not work as well and will cost Papua New Guinea a lot more.

Papua New Guinea is supposed to be a democracy but most people realise that it’s actually a kleptocracy.

For most of its politicians the aim of getting elected is not to serve the public but to steal their money.

When people see a fat politician in a big, flashy car their immediate thought is usually how is this guy stealing everyone’s money, what sort of business scams is he involved in and who has he corrupted to help him?

It’s a sad fact that when a big scam or rip-off is discovered in Papua New Guinea you usually find a politician at the other end.

If you see, for instance, an Asian logging company ripping off traditional landowners it’s fairly easy to work backwards to see which politician they have bribed.

If you see a successful business somewhere and make a few discreet inquiries to work out why they are doing so well it’s amazing what you can find at the other end.

In most cases, of course, you will find that the business is legitimate and simply the result of good planning and hard work but now and again you will find one that defies that logic. When that happens there’s usually a politician at the other end.

There’s another interesting indicator too, if the politician is fat, you know, with a big belly and a face shaped like the moon, it’s a fair bet that he’s corrupt.

That might sound like a ridiculous proposition and terrible discrimination against people who have trouble controlling their weight but it’s remarkable how accurate it can turn out to be.

Watching the antics in the Papua New Guinean parliament over the last couple of weeks it was amazing to see how many of them were grossly overweight.

With that many heart attacks-in-waiting waddling around both the opposition and government benches it’s hard not to be dispirited.

At the moment James Marape looks and sounds exactly like his predecessor. It will be interesting to see how that pans out in the long run.

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