BRISBANE – As the political crisis in Papua New Guinea moves from its deconstruction to its reconstruction phase over the next few days, it is clear that there are three broad outcomes possible for a country that has been dragged down for too long by inept and corrupt governance.
The first is that prime minister Peter O’Neill - still being reported by the world's media as having resigned on Sunday when he had merely announced that as an intention - will engineer his continuation in power.
This could either of take two forms: )'Neill retains his top job in an escapist effort rivalling the exploits of the Great Houdini (in which case Australia's PM Morrison will have to welcome him back to the fold having gone off half-cocked on Sunday); or he manages to save his government by taking a back seat and working towards a return gig by, in time, removing a puppet prime minister.
Both options will cost him, or should I say cost the long-suffering people of PNG, a great deal of money in bribing back into the fold politicians who ‘mistakenly’ joined the opposition.
The second possible outcome is that the O’Neill government falls and the opposition prevails but anoints a leader who is a liklik O’Neill – a new face but with the same old habits of corruption, nepotism and self-indulgence with perhaps a few honest souls in the ministry to create an impression of positive change.
As the Australian government has lionised O’Neill so often in the past, it may find it can comfortably transfer its affections to this new model of the same old conspiracy against the people.
The third possible outcome is that the opposition prevails with a fresh and more moral leadership which begins, in the words of my esteemed colleague Francis Nii, to “protect its citizens and become the compass that directs the course of the nation with laws that are strong, respected and upheld, and which work fairly in the interests of every citizen”.
And how will we know that this new leadership has been installed? Well, look for names like Juffa, Kramer, Kua, Morauta, Bird and Stuckey. Those are honourable names and will tell you all you need to know.
Meanwhile, in Port Moresby late last night, National Capital District governor Powes Parkop issued a media release which revealed that a serious split has emerged in the remaining senior leadership of the O’Neill government.
The important part of the statement reads:
Former prime minister Sir Julius Chan and three other eminent political figures are jointly opposing Court application to delaying the vote on a motion of no confidence launched today [Monday].
Sir Julius, who prime minister O’Neill nominated on Sunday to replace him, is reacting to Mr O’Neill’s decision to invoke legal proceedings to stop the handover.
Sir Julius said the sudden decision by the prime minister to apply for an injunction to stop the transition is against the national interest.
“There is a definite mood for change in the country,” Sir Julius said.
“We met that mood with a decision yesterday, and that decision should stand,” Sir Julius said.
“Parliament should go ahead and vote on the new leadership this week without any attempt at interference with the democratic process.
“Court proceedings will just delay the inevitable, and will risk stalling important programs and changes that will be for the good of the country.”
In addition to Parkop and New Ireland governor Chan, the statement also carried the names of Western Highlands governor Paias Wingti and Madang governor Peter Yama. All urged parliament “to deal with the issue of transition immediately rather than delaying it in any way”. Code for 'scrub the court case'.
O'Neill's last remaining senior political allies are now deputy prime minister Charles Abel and the ambitious figure of Sam Basil, both of whom threw in their lot with the prime minister fairly recently and whose prospects of progression seem to depend entirely on his sponsorship.