BUSA JEREMIAH WENOGO | PNG Informal Economist
PORT MORESBY - When Peter O'Neill accepted Patrick Pruaitch’s surprise nomination for the prime minister's post yesterday it dismayed everyone including James Marape.
Guided by recent political history and the latest developments in the political spectrum, Marape would have no doubt been reasonably confident of his nomination and eventual election as prime minister.
So the decision of O'Neill to accept the nomination would have shocked him and may even have changed his view of the former prime minister.
This is where I believe the opposition may have succeeded despite the fact that they did not achieve the desired outcome of electing their prime minister.
Perhaps they managed to plant a seed of division that may lead to a rift between Marape and O'Neill in the not too distant future.
If that is so it will accomplish another objective, which is to neutralise O'Neill's influence in the new government.
No doubt the isolation of O'Neill from the new government will be something of a bonus to the now diminished opposition after they, with the help of Marape, engineered O'Neill's downfall.
Even prominent People’s National Congress members such as Sir Puka Temu expressed clear dissent over O'Neill’s leadership. There is no doubt that discontent over PNC leadership led us to this outcome and the scenario where O'Neill is pushed further away from PNC is not far-fetched.
To Marape, O'Neill's acceptance of the nomination exposed his reluctance to let go of the prime minister's job even after he publicly resigned and declared his support for Marape. Most important of all it demonstrated to Marape that he has to think of a way to deal with O'Neill as he sets his sight on running the country.
Several MPs such as Southern Highlands governor Michael Nali, Steven Davies and Temu may have provided Marape a much needed advice when they encouraged him to look across the aisle and include the Laguna camp in his cabinet.
If that is to take place, it will likely further weaken O'Neill's influence in the new government especially if key ministerial portfolios such as justice and police are given to strong anti-corruption opposition members.
Marape may also have to replace the Speaker given how deliberately ignorant and belligerent was his conduct in not adhering to the constitution when the opposition wanted to replace him.
Having a different Speaker may help Marape to take back PNG as he so declared to do. In his maiden speech he expressed a strong desire to fight for PNG's economic independence among other things.
Perhaps the biggest insight into what he plans to do is revealed by the fact that he adopted the slogan ‘Take Back PNG’.
If he truly wants to do that he must tactfully maneuver his way through the treacherous waters of PNG politics. He will more than ever need a band of patriots and warriors who are ready to confront the stormy weather.
He only needs to look across the aisles from where he took on this mantra of ‘Take Back PNG’.