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  • Papua New Guinea
  • Solomon Kantha (bio)

The government of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is pulling through in spite of the scandals that plagued the government in 2008 and is likely to successfully complete its full second term (2007–2012) in Parliament, provided that there is no major shift in allegiance and a vote of no confidence does not dissolve the government in the next two years. Prime Minister Somare announced during the country’s thirty-fourth independence anniversary that he will not step down as prime minister until Papua New Guinea gets back on the right track (Post Courier, 17 Sept 2009). That was the latest pledge from Sir Michael, who is serving as the longest-running member of Parliament (mp) ever in the Commonwealth group of nations.

In March 2009, the National Executive Council (nec) had its first meeting of the year in Enga Province. It was one of the biggest political events ever held in the province. To welcome the prime minister and the nec, the people of Enga had almost one hundred pigs, thirty cassowaries, and twenty goats on the menu. It was also a courtesy on the part of the Enga people to celebrate Sir Michael’s forty years in politics. However, after delivering more than k142 million for projects, Sir Michael left Enga earlier than expected. (One PNG kina [k1] equals approximately us$.37.) The Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee was to coordinate the spending, which caused some controversy. Sir Michael was offended by comments made by Enga Governor Peter Ipatas, who questioned the capabilities of the committee to account for millions of kina given to them. Ipatas questioned why the funds were going to committees instead of going to the established provincial government system (Post Courier, 2 March 2009).

The government also faced a number of challenges as it clung tightly to power in its endeavor to set a new record of successfully completing a second term. On 28 July 2009, the Opposition brought a no-confidence motion against the prime minister. The leader of Government Business and Minister for National Planning Paul Tiensten responded with a motion to adjourn Parliament until 10 November, even though there was a full quorum. All hell broke loose when the Speaker of Parliament, Jeffery Nape, ruled in favor of the adjournment motion, thus circumventing a vote of no confidence. This, as expected, drew the ire of the Opposition and nationwide condemnation of the integrity of the Speaker and the political process. Some observers commented that the government has used the office of the Speaker to protect the prime minister when a motion of no confidence was presented. Long-time political analyst Dr Ray Anere argued that the adjournment might prevent Parliament from meeting the constitutional requirement to sit for sixty-three days and would deny members of Parliament the freedom [End Page 448] of speech and debate guaranteed under section 115 of the PNG Constitution (Post Courier, 30 July 2009).

The Opposition threatened to refer Prime Minister Somare, Speaker Nape, and Tiensten to the Ombudsman Commission for a possible breach of the constitution for their part in adjourning the Parliament. The Opposition also echoed the claim that Parliament would not reach its full nine weeks or sixty-three days a year (Post Courier, 13 Oct 2009).

On 29 July, in a move that surprised many, eleven members of Parliament from the ruling National Alliance Party joined the Opposition. These members were PNG Country Party Leader Jamie Maxtone- Graham (Anglimp South Wahgi), Thompson Harokaqveh (Goroka), Peter Ipatas (Enga Province), Samson Kuli (Usino Bundi), Sai Sailon (Kainantu), Jim Nomane (Chuave), Boka Kondra (North Fly), Bob Danaya (Western Province), Jack Cameron (Kiriwina-Goodenough), John Boito (Obura-Wanenara), and Peter Iwei (Telefomin). They described the Somare regime as evil, corrupt, and dictatorial. The members reported that when they had spoken of moving to the Opposition they had been threatened with cuts to their annual discretionary funds or special project funds (Post Courier, 29 July 2009).

After thirty-five years of struggle, by 2012 Papua New Guinea will have two new provinces: Hela and Jiwaka. On 11 March 2009, Parliament gave unanimous support for a law allowing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 448-459
Launched on MUSE
2010-09-19
Open Access
No
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