Thursday, December 15, 2011

PNG Political Crisis Updates

Source: the "Papua New Guinea Blogs"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Queen could be called on to settle PNG political deadlock

The Queen could be called in to settle a bizarre political deadlock in Papua New Guinea which has left the country with two rival Prime Ministers and two governors-general.

While either of the two sides could seek the royal assent to their choice as governor-general, the Queen is likely to try to avoid a decision until the turmoil resolves internally. Experts said Buckingham Palace will be very unlikely to put phone calls from the Pacific nation through to the Queen. The Palace was drawn in to the unfolding turmoil after the PNG parliament voted to suspend the Queen's representative, Sir Michael Ogio, following his decision to back Sir Michael Somare to be prime minister.

Instead, the Parliament supported the Speaker as acting governor-general and he swiftly swore in a rival contender, Peter O'Neill, as prime minister. A constitutional expert, Anne Twomey, said the situation was "abominably complicated" and there were few – if any – precedents. Though it is unclear whether a governor-general has ever been suspended, there have been occasional sackings on Caribbean islands. However, these have occurred where the prime minister has fallen out with the governor-general – and so the Queen's assent to a sacking was uncontroversial. "The Queen will be very conscious of what is going on in PNG," she told The Daily Telegraph.. "She would most likely not act until it became absolutely clear who was the prime minister and comprised the national executive council.

While there was any doubt on that question, she would be unlikely to act ... Buckingham Palace will make sure that whoever answers the phone will give a placatory answer but they will be canny in not getting the Queen involved. If I were her, I would become rather hard to contact." The deadlock followed a decision by the country's Supreme Court to reinstate Sir Michael, a veteran and wily politician known as the grand chief. The court invalidated Sir Michael's resignation last August which had been announced by his family while he was receiving medical treatment abroad.

Adding a bizarre twist to the dramatic turmoil in the Commonwealth country, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the capital on Wednesday as an MP warned that Parliament was cursed. Dr Twomey, from Sydney University, said the closest precedent to the unfolding crisis was a case in Western Nigeria in 1962, when a provincial governor dismissed the premier, who appealed to the Queen. "Her Majesty's approach throughout was to do nothing and hope that the political issues would resolve themselves," she said. "I suspect she will take the same approach in relation to PNG.

She will not want to be involved in the politics of it. If you do nothing for long enough, the politics will normally sort itself out." Though the turmoil has not spilled into violence, the standoff has resulted in two leaders, two governors-general, two police commissioners and two cabinets. "We're all schizophrenic now. There's two of everything," said Institute of National Affairs executive director, Paul Barker. "The country cannot stand this division. There are questions of the legality over everything."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Papua New Guinea created history yet again today, when parliament suspended the Governor General Sir Michael Ogio for refusing to swear in Peter O'Neil has the prime minister. The O'Neil cabinet met after lunch today, and decided the fate of the GG, and then went ahead with the decision after parliament resumed this afternoon.

The governor general was summoned this morning by parliament to swear in Mr O'Neil at around 2pm, but he refused saying he only recognises the Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare as the legitimate prime minister. Speaker of Parliament, Jeffery Nape is now the acting Governor General, and swore in Peter O'Neil as the prime minister. Francis Marus, the deputy speakers is now the acting speaker.

All these transpired on the floor of parliament. In doing so, the latest happenings has placed PNG in another constitutional crisis mood. The Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare's 20-men cabinet was sworn in this morning at the Government House.

They then convened an NEC meeting at Morauta Haus, where the prime minister's department is based including the National Executive Council. So far, Papua New Guinea has two prime ministers, two deputy prime ministers, two governor generals, 50 plus ministers, two police commissioners, and two finance secretaries. Meanwhile, the man caught between the controversy, Sir Michael Ogio has come out explaining why he recognized the Somare camp, and not Peter O'Neil.

He explained, as Head of the State, he is duty bound to uphold the Constitution, and uphold and give effect to decisions and orders of the Supreme Court, that has bearing on the performance of his Vice Regal duties and functions, and responsibilities. Sir Michael said, such was his duty, on the Supreme Court order, and as forwarded to him by the State Solicitor.

He said based on advise from government lawyers, he took action to recognize the grand chief in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court. Sir Michael said he did that, informingly, in the best interest of Papua New Guinea.

The swearing in of the new NEC has been just completed! The same NEC in the old O'Neill/Namah Govt remains. Acting GG leaves Parliament Chamber and being escorted out by Fred Seekiot and Tom Kulunga. Parliament resolves to review the Supreme Court's decision of 12th December, 2011 using the "slip rule" on the basis that the Court has no power to review Parliamentary acts. And finally, Parliament resolves that the actions of Fred Yakasan and his group of policemen are acts of mutiny and will be dealt with accordingly

OGIO: Acting on Orders
The Governor General has been informed of the ONIELL NAMAH Government decision to summon him to Parliament House, but he says he will not turn up there, as the Government house is the only venue to swear in the Prime Minister and any other dignitaries. 
 Acting upon the decision of the Supreme Court that Sir Michael Somare be reinstated that that the Mr ONiel’s elections as Prime Minister was unconstitutional on the 2nd of August 2011, Sir Ogio’s swearing in of the full cabinet and instruments of the Somare Government is an implementation of the Court’s decision. 
 Sources from Government House informed us that the GG says he is acting upon the advice of the current legitimate Somare Government and his NEC, after signing instruments this morning at the Government House. Meanwhile, Sources from the Somare Government Camp is aware of Parliament’s proceedings this morning and have labeled such actions by the ONIEL/NAMAH Government as ILLEGAL and UNLAWFUL.
 Live news feed comng in from Parliament: Acting Governor-General Jeffery Nape is admitted to the Parliament:

1. GC Sir Michael Somare and his team's appointment is revoked;
2. Former O'Neill/Namah's NEC is revoked;
3. O'Neill is worn in as the Prime Minister;
4. New O'Neill's NEC is just being appointed and sworn in at the same time strating with the Deputy Prime Minister.

Its in the process now. Will update here!

Breaking News - Somare Cabinet Sworn in.. Parliament summons GG

The Sir Michael Somare Cabinet has just been sworn in at Government House by Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio. Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is now being driven off to Morauta Haus, Waiagni, followed by his ministers. A press conference is expected to be held at Morauta Haus. Commentators say according to Section 142 of the constitution the Governor General has to swear in the PM elected by parliament. This has not happened so back in Parliament the Govenment of Peter O'Niell has now moved a motion to remove Michael Ogio as Governor General of PNG

From NBC News: The Governor General, Sir Michael Ogio has sworn in 10 members of the Somare camp into office as Ministers, effectively recognizing Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and his court-restored Government as the legitimate Government of the day. The swearing in ceremony took place just moments ago at the Government House in Port Moresby.

The swearing in of the 10 Ministers adds to a total twenty-one minority cabinet, which Sir Michael had named on Monday following the Supreme Court ruling, nullifying the election of Peter O'Neill as the Prime Minister. Sir Michael was present to witness the ceremony. It is highly likely that the Governor General will lose his job, following the swearing in of the 10 Ministers.

It's purported that the O'Neill camp have moved into Parliament to revoke Mr. Ogio's appointment. From Lisa Pagalio NBC News: Parliament directs GG to be at the House at 2pm today to swear in Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister - Kundu 2 live feed

Peter Oneil also summons GG to parliament to answer to his actions...He is directed to be present in parliament house this afternoon. Meanwhile Sir Jay is inviting GC Somare to be present in parliament to follow the proper parliamentary processes. Speaker Nape is stating that under sec 104 sub sec d..GC Somare is no longer a member of parliament.

Minister Puka Temu is advising during grievances debate on the floor of parliament that the GG is incompetent and indecisive following the resolution by the speaker indicating that the directions of the executive arm of the government (71-O) amendment have not been adhered to
Papua New Guinea is in the grip of a constitutional crisis with Sir Michael Somare and Peter O'Neill both claiming to be the country's legitimate leader. Last night the country's supreme court ruled the election of O'Neill in August was unconstitutional, and it ordered the reinstatement of Somare as prime minister. But O'Neill remains defiant. The impasse prompted police to call for calm in the capital, Port Moresby, which has a reputation for street violence.

Heavily armed police protected Government House on Tuesday, but elsewhere in the city life went on as usual. Packed buses took commuters to and from work and crowded vegetable markets operated as normal. Talk-back radio and internet chatrooms, however, were preoccupied with the political crisis. PNG's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Sir Michael Somare, who was toppled while overseas receiving treatment for a heart ailment, should be reinstated immediately.

But O'Neill, who replaced Somare and is recognised by parliament as the legitimate prime minister, has rejected the court ruling and refuses to step down. "As parliament spoke today I am the prime minister of this country and Somare is trying to hijack it with some hooligan policemen," said O'Neill after barging through a police barricade to see the governor-general late on Tuesday. Governor-General Michael Ogio was going to swear Somare in on Tuesday but, after talking with O'Neill at Government House, decided to meet with Somare on Wednesday and order the two men to negotiate a settlement, said the governor-general's office "He has decided to hear both sides of the story and will get both parties to sit down and negotiate," Ogio's media officer said. The reinstatement of Somare is seen by residents and business leaders in Port Moresby as the most likely way to resolve the stand-off and is unlikely to inflame the situation.

"We are not expecting any trouble," said one PNG businessman. "The army, police and people seem to have accepted the court's ruling as the legal answer to the stalemate." Neither Somare nor O'Neill has enough support to mobilise widespread or violent street protests. Somare's supporters argue the court ruling that the O'Neill government was illegal automatically overturns any action taken by it since Somare was toppled. "There are heightened political tensions within Port Moresby with two, as it were, alternative prime ministers.

This is unknown terrain in Papua New Guinea," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd earlier in the day. "We don't want to see blood on the streets. We heard some gunshots last night," he told Australian media. "The chief" The ailing Somare, 75, said before the judgement that he was willing to govern the country. However, Somare's party has suffered mass defections and is now in a minority in parliament. Talkback radio callers generally supported the court ruling, with some saying Somare should be allowed to rule even if he has only minority support in parliament because elections are only six months away in June 2012. PNG's longest-serving prime minister, affectionately known as "the Chief" after leading the country to independence in 1973, Somare has left open the question of whether he would run at the next elections. PNG, a country where the majority of people live subsistence lives despite its abundant mineral wealth, has a turbulent history and corruption is rife.

A 12-year secessionist rebellion on the island of Bougainville, the longest running conflict in the Pacific, forced the closure of the giant Panguna gold and copper mine. The army topple the government during the rebellion in 1997 for bringing in mercenaries to try to end the Bougainville conflict, which ended with a peace treaty in 2001. Despite PNG's robust politics, which have seen governments in the past toppled as lawmakers change party allegiances, the nation's "golden goose" resource sector has largely been left unhindered by the turmoil. PNG's economy is tipped to grow 7.8% next year, driven largely by the construction of a massive liquefied natural gas project. US oil giant ExxonMobil leads a consortium building the country's biggest-ever resource project, a $15.7 billion LNG project due to come on stream in 2014. The project is expected to produce 6.6 million tonnes per annum and could see GDP increase by 20%

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