Somare camp: no guarantee O'Neill govt will keep its word

20/03/2012 10:50

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: PNG Deputy PM Belden Namah and PM Peter O'Neill.


The O’Neill government has given assurances it would stick to the 2012 election schedule but the Somare camp has warned that there is no guarantee their rivals will keep their word.

The Somare camp last night further alleged that two platoons of PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) soldiers were deployed in Port Moresby on the eve of parliament’s recall. The PNG parliament meets this afternoon at 2 pm (PGT).

Sir Arnold Amet, the attorney general in the Somare government, said at the weekend the O’Neill regime could still use its numerical strength in parliament to push for a deferral despite opposition by most Papua New Guineans, civil society and the Australian government.

The former chief justice said the regime’s attempts to remove Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia since November last year, despite denials by the parliament-elected Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, showed that they could go back on their word.

“As minority members of parliament, we are concerned that the O’Neill/Namah regime will use its numerical strength to prolong their hold of office against the greater interest of PNG. Therefore, consistent with the actions of the regime, we cannot rule out the possibility that an attempt may be made to defer the election by sidestepping the rule of law and the constitution,” Sir Arnold said.

The Somare camp added to the uncertainty in the lead-up to today’s parliament sitting by claiming last night that two PNGDF platoons had been deployed in Port Moresby.

“For this reason I call on Mr O’Neill to tell PNG when the decision on a call out was taken by NEC and sanctioned by parliament to warrant two platoons in the streets of Port Moresby today (yesterday). This regime continues to send out disconcerting signals not only to the outside world but to its own citizens in PNG. The fact is parliament will be sitting tomorrow (today) and I hope this is not an indication that Mr O’Neill will use his numbers to extend the life of this parliament, therefore needing the support of the military,” said Andrew Kumbakor, defence minister in the Somare camp.

However Port Moresby-based commercial radio station PNG FM Ltd this morning quoted PNG assistant commissioner (operations) Simon Kauba as saying the report was not true. The PNGDF chief of staff Captain Tom Ur also said he was not aware of a military callout.

Nevertheless the promotion of a number of PNGDF officers to colonels was also suspicious according to Mr Kumbakor.

“While we commend these men for their promotion into higher positions in the army, the timing of these awards again sends ambiguous signals to the public at large.”

Sandline personality Lt Colonel Walter Enuma was reportedly among the four officers, who were promoted to the rank of colonel in an announcement by Mr O’Neill early this month with the latter made the chief of operations.

Newly appointed Australian foreign minister Bob Carr last week warned PNG that failure to conduct the general election in June could attract international sanctions.

The Community Coalition Against Corruption (CCCAC), comprising members of PNG’s civil society led by the PNG Chapter of Transparency International, said the elections should go ahead and a deferral would confirm MPs’ failures.

“The current 109 Members, regardless of what side they are on now, had 5 years to prepare for the elections. If they are now saying that things are not ready, then it is a reflection that they have not performed and that they failed in their responsibilities and the people they represent. Parliament presents itself to the people after five years and the people decide which members remain in the new parliament,” the CCCAC said in a statement.

Attempts by some concerned Port Moresby-based Papua New Guineans, led by members of PNG Facebook group The Truth As It Is - PNG to hold a protest march today were refused by city police. However, this has not stopped them from collecting signatures for a petition, which they hope to pass on to the opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu to table, that would urge parliament to stick to the Electoral Commission’s timetable.