NRI warns against prolonged dual legitimacy claims to Govt

17/01/2012 16:26

Rival PMs: (L-R) Parliament-elected PM Peter O'Neill and Supreme Court-reinstated PM Sir Michael Somare


Papua New Guinea’s National Research Institute (NRI) has warned that the current dual legitimacy claims to government by the Somare and O’Neill camps was dangerous and should not be prolonged.

The PNG government-funded think tank, in a commentary on the month-long political stalemate, said the two rival groups – led by the Supreme Court-reinstated Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and parliament-elected PM Peter O’Neill – should return to the negotiating table and compromise before the general election.

“This impasse should not deepen the mysteries of ordinary people, who – once again – are rightfully owners and partakers of the PNG government. A dual legitimacy claim to the executive arm should not go on unresolved indefinitely. It undermines our laws and institutions and it does not portray a positive image of the country abroad. It is time for Honorable Peter O’Neill and Chief Michael Somare to put their respective political paraphernalia on the table, talk through their issues and agree to move the county forward to the eighth national elections in the post-independence period,” said NRI senior research fellow Dr Henry Okole.

An eminent persons group, whose membership could be sourced from within and outside PNG, could be formed to broker a deal between the two opposing parties, added Dr Okole.

“Once a way forward is agreed to, the proposal can then be brought to Parliament for debate and/or endorsement. It is the prerogative of Parliament to decide what exactly can be done between now and polling.”

While many people see the hospitalization of Sir Michael in Singapore in early 2011 as a major factor behind his toppling, the PNG political scientist believes the catalyst was the 2010 Supreme Court decision, which nullified certain provisions of the Organic on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates and exposed Sir Michael’s National Alliance Party (NA).

“People can talk about the divisive issues in the National Alliance, the acting role of Sam Abal as prime minister and the medical condition of Chief Somare, among many things. But the seeds of destruction were already sowed way before the Chief entered hospital,” he said.

According to Dr Okole the August 2, 2011 election of Mr O’Neill as PM was also the result of MPs who felt betrayed and victimized while in government:

“The change of government on 2 August 2011 was not only a change of prime minister and government. To some MPs, it was to avenge themselves – after feeling victimized and betrayed – against certain colleagues of theirs who plied their alleged dirty trade behind Chief Somare. In a way, the public support for the O’Neill-Namah government was a reaction also to some of these leaders who saw themselves as being indispensable to PNG politics.”