By REG RENAGI
The public in 2011 did not expect parliament to rise on a high note since closing shop last year to give itself a six - month holiday.
Last May, PNG’s 8th National Parliament started in usual fashion.
Proceedings started slow and low key.
The house got down to business and from the public gallery, some key differences could be observed.
Three prominent figures making up any robust parliamentary debate sessions were notably missing from the chamber.
The Prime Minister, Opposition leader and the Speaker of the House were not at their seats on the preliminary proceedings.
Prime Minister Somare was abroad seeking medical treatment and new Opposition Leader, Belden Namah was also visiting his family overseas on medical treatment.
Speaker Jeffrey Nape was conveniently unavailable since parliament adjourned last year, with many speculating his whereabouts since last year.
During three weeks of this year’s first parliament sitting, general business of parliament has not really improved much over the years.
Proceedings would start very late with government consistently failing to provide the required numbers for a quorum.
When MPs did debate “hot” issues on the floor, the Speaker would almost always gag discussions initiated by the parliamentary opposition party.
Last month’s May session had many outstanding issues being debated by MPs from both sides criticising each other amidst raised voices.
The more passionate even let slip a few colourful language.
Many issues were presented as Ministerial statements (and reports) being tabled by MPs for information, and relevant state agencies to take note and act on them.
Sitting directly overlooking the government side, new Opposition Leader, Belden Namah and his firebrand deputy, Sam Basil were true to form in their first-time job as the “new kids on the block”.
Both excelled well as they took to task, Acting PM, Sam Abal and government senior ministers over many and wide-ranging policy issues.
The government’s responses were as usual, both long and evasive in nature; and lacking any real substance.
Among others, the most controversial issue so far has been the many questions asked of the Acting PM, Sam Abal by Belden Namah to explain clearly to citizens, what is the true state of PM Somare’s health condition for him to be given ‘a leave of absence’ for this session of parliament.
Today, the public is now widely speculating whether PNG will have a new PM in 2011 due to PM Somare’s prevailing health condition.
Papua New Guineans will soon know whether it is time for the government’s succession plan to be activated when parliament rises for another three weeks.