KUNDIAWA - The political games continue in Australia’s closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, as a parliamentary vote of no confidence in prime minister Peter O’Neill gets closer.
There are many tactical twists and turns, with one of the hottest issues at the moment being an allegation questioning whether O’Neill is an Australian citizen, which would have barred his election to parliament.
A week ago the member for Madang, Bryan Kramer, raised the eyebrows of many Facebook users when he posted an article alleging that O’Neill was an Australian citizen.
“Prime minister Peter O’Neill is an Australian citizen holding a current Australian passport giving effect to the fact he is illegally a member of parliament and therefore illegally occupying the office of prime minister of Papua New Guinea,” Kramer stated, including in his article relevant sections of the law under the dual citizenship act.
The next day on 18 May, journalist Freddy Mou reported in Loop PNG that O’Neill was born and raised in Pangia in the Southern Highlands and was not an Australian citizen. Pro-O’Neill posts and comments also began to appear on social media dismissing Kramer’s accusation as fake news.
Kramer in response said the issue was whether O’Neill was also an Australia citizen, writing that “while the law now provides for dual citizenship, it does not allow for them to vote or be elected to be members of parliament, let alone a prime minister.
“There are thousands of mix race Papua New Guineans born in PNG to an Australian parent holding both PNG and Australian passports. However, once they reach the age of 19, they are required to either renounce their PNG or Australian citizenship.
“O’Neill is foolish enough to invoke his Australian citizenship by descent and renewed his Australian passport therefore effectively disqualifying him to be a member of parliament and prime minister of Papua New Guinea,” Kramer wrote.
In levelling his accusation, Kramer stated that if it was not true he expected the Australian foreign minister to immediately issue a statement saying that O’Neill wasn’t an Australian citizen.
To date the Australian foreign minister or some other relevant authority has not issued any statement on the issue. They have been in complete silence.
Kramer also asserted O’Neill could issue a public response saying he was not an Australian citizen, however he expected O’Neill to remain silent.
So far O’Neill used journalist Freddy Mou and attorney-general Alfred Manase to try to dispel the accusation, but O’Neill himself has not spoken on the issue.
On Thursday, the Post-Courier newspaper reported that O’Neill, through his lawyers, had obtained a court order to restrain Kramer from “further defaming O’Neill either in person or in writing.”
The report stated that O’Neill declared in court that he was not an Australian citizen and had never been an Australian citizen.
He also declared he did not hold an Australian passport.
He said the posts and comments were malicious in the extreme and designed to denigrate him in the eyes of the public, the Post-Courier reported.
It is believed the restraining order has not been served on Kramer as he was in Rabaul at the invitation of Rabaul MP Dr Allan Marat. Kramer has not yet responded to the restriction order reported by the Post-Courier.
The question now is why, if he is not an Australian citizen, did O’Neill wait six days to obtain a restriction order from the court to shut down Kramer? Why didn’t he call a press conference and dispel the accusations immediately?
Is the restriction a calculated ploy to prevent Kramer from raising the issue on the floor of parliament when it sits on Tuesday?
And I’m wondering if a reputable and independent investigative reporter from Australia can establish the truth as we can’t trust local PNG’s mainstream media and their reporters these days?
The PNG National newspaper reported yesterday that O’Neill had filed documents in court to prove that he, like any other non-citizen of Australia, needs a visa to enter that country.
"Court documents obtained by The National included an affidavit from O’Neill filed by Twivey Lawyers at the National Court registry in Waigani yesterday. It included O’Neill’s multiple-entry business visa granted by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby on July 4 last year.
"The visa, according to the notice, allows him to stay in Australia for a maximum of three months at one time. His 'last date to arrive' is July 4, 2023, meaning the visa expires then.
"O’Neill’s lawyer Tiffany Twivey told The National last night that she filed the affidavit to prove that O’Neill was a Papua New Guinea citizen and does not hold an Australian citizenship as recently claimed by Madang MP Bryan Kramer and others in the Opposition camp.
“You cannot have an Australian visa and an Australian passport at the same time,” Twivey said. “They (Australian immigration) won’t let you do it.”
"Twivey also clarified that the substantive case between O’Neill and Kramer was filed at the National Court in Waigani registry on April 16. She said Kramer was served the writ of summons the next day in Port Moresby."