Sunday, December 28, 2008


Somare in no rush to exit


THERE’S no hurry by or even a signal yet from the Prime Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare to retire from active politics. Somare is in no rush to exit. The grand old man of PNG politics has a knack of keeping everyone guessing. He’s not throwing in the towel just yet. He did not start the rumor. Others did for their own selfish reasons. Despite such a reality that favorite pastime of our politicians has reared its ugly head again. Several of them – from within the governing coalition’s own ranks and elsewhere -- want to be the next Prime Minister. They want the job during this term of Parliament. The message implied in this latest move is that there are some in the Grand Chief’s own governing coalition who think he is either not doing a good job as head of government or that at his age he should be spared all the pressures, heavy workload and the long hours that go with the job as Prime Minister. The aspirants want Sir Michael to retire gracefully and sooner the better. The people who are spreading this kind of aspersions are not from the National Alliance Party. They are people cared for and made an integral part of the government by the good grace of the man they seek to destroy and dethrone. It’s a case of people seeking to chop off the hand that feeds them. It’s sad but true that many before them have unsuccessfully tried similar tactics to fulfill their ambition to be Prime Minister by short-cut methods and not through electoral mandate over the years since independence. Many could not take their failures calmly and have actually died or dropped into the political wilderness and have become “no names”. The flipside of Sir Michael not stepping down from the top job voluntarily sooner rather than later is that those ambitious aspirants vying for the top job are also planning to use Section 145 of the National Constitution to move a Motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister at the “appropriate” time. The appropriate time is when the 18 months grace period of the government to remain unchallenged in office expires at the end of February in early March. Should such a motion proceed, it will be a tall order for success for the perpetrators of the move. The government is solidly entrenched to thwart such a challenge. It is foolish of those seeking to destabilise government and politics for the sake of wielding political power. Okay, it is granted that there are many potential Prime Minister material among the present crop of MPs. A few standouts include current Deputy Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu, Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch, State Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare, Transport, Works and Civil Aviation Minister Don Polye, Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill, Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru, Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta and Deputy Opposition Leader Bart Philemon. PNG-style politics is heavily dependent on numbers and money. One must have plenty of both underpinned by a great deal of charismatic influence to succeed as a candidate for Prime Minister. Every MP is qualified – by virtue of being a Member of Parliament – to aspire to be Prime Minister. But when you do not have your own extra money, the numbers and the influence to outsmart other aspirants, just forget about trying for something you cannot have. The job will never be handed to anyone a golden platter. It’s a job for very special and talented people with vision and humility and are God-fearing servant leaders. What more do our MPs want? The Somare-led government has looked after them extremely well in terms of pay and perks. The present MPs get very good pay and millions of kina for electorate development as opposed to predecessors who served up to around 1992. All those seeking to be Prime Minister ahead of Sir Michael’s announcement of his retirement from active politics sometime in the foreseeable future will not succeed. There shall be no change of Prime Minister any time between now and 2012.  Any change will happen at the pleasure of the incumbent. And the reshuffle of Ministers recently mooted by the Grand Chief will be a “small one” affecting only three or four ministries. All speculation to the contrary on these two issues is just that – speculation spun by uninformed political opportunists. Sir Michael will announce changes to the ministry after he hosts the special meeting of leaders the Pacific Islands Forum states in Port Moresby in late January. It’s most likely that the merit-based changes will be made before he flies out on a State Visit to New Zealand and Australia in March. Sir Michael will make the changes at his pleasure and not hurriedly as consequence of coercion and pressure put on him by individuals within NA and by his coalition partners. The prime ministerial change and leadership succession of National Alliance Party are two different issues. Under Section 142 (2) of the National Constitution the Prime Minister is appointed by Parliament at the first meeting of Parliament following a national general election and otherwise from time to time as the occasion for the appointment of a Prime Minister arises, by the Head of State acting in accordance with a decision of the Parliament. The Prime Minister is usually the leader of a political party. The emergence of a new National Alliance Party leader is an in-house matter. The party’s National Convention comprising its parliamentary wing, its national council, and regional executive and foundation members shall elect the new party leader. Right now no vacancy exists for a Prime Minister and for NA’s parliamentary leader. Sir Michael and his ruling National Alliance Party will determine the appropriate time, place and space for Sir Michael to step down as party leader and Prime Minister. Everyone -- including NA’s coalition partners -- who’re seeking to accelerate the National Alliance leadership succession before the end of the present parliamentary term by April 2012 shall have to wait. There is no leadership succession problem within NA at present. The last thing that the rank and file of NA wants is hang their dirty linen out publicly. NA’s four regional organisations at peace with each other and are committed to the resolve that the party will collectively decide what is good for them in terms of appointing a successor to take over from Sir Michael when he chooses to retire. Until such time is at hand, there is no leadership vacancy in NA.  Sir Michael deeply respects his parliamentary wing MPs who have been loyal and supportive of his tenure as party leader and as Prime Minister since August 2002. He is not going to keep his party’s national executive and his parliamentary wing members guessing for ever. The Grand Chief is very passionate about the party and will always stand in support of his loyalists. No one in PNG politics should be discourteous about forcing the grand old man of PNG politics and the Pacific’s eldest statesman out of his active role as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and parliamentary leader of National Alliance Party. Sooner or later he shall give the signal for his retirement. When that happens appropriate provisions of the National Alliance constitution, the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties, the Standing Orders of Parliament and the National Constitution come into play – firstly for the appointment of a new NA leader and secondly for appointment by Parliament of a new Prime Minister.


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