The Political Circus that is the O’Namah Government
Last week PNG experienced a political week from hell, and today’s protest march against the deferment of General Elections 2012 and the implementation of the Judicial Conduct Act 2012 was a visibly emphatic and clear message to Peter O’Neill as to how the people of PNG feel about his government’s actions.
The actions and decisions of the O’Namah coalition has shown up Peter O’Neill as a man whose promises can no longer be believed in totality, but instead – rather, any commitment he now makes must be taken with a grain of salt, and be received tentatively, with one eye on the future and the other on the past.
This class of government within the PNG political-context cannot last long.
There are already signs emerging that there is significant internal conflict within the O’Namah coalition – the crux of the concerns swept under the rug being centered around controversial Deputy Prime Minister and leader of key coalition partner, the PNG Party, Belden Namah.
This reaffirms my view, as I’ve written before, that Peter O’Neill’s days as Prime Minister are numbered.
Belden Namah, along with Parliamentary Speaker Jeffery Nape, were the first members of parliament to publicly voice their support to differ the elections, hence Namah is viewed by many as being the key principal behind Parliament’s initial decision last Thursday to defer elections by six months.
Reviewing O’Namah’s term in government since August 2, 2011, it is quite clear and despite feigned support, Peter O’Neill will be more aware of this than anyody else, that Belden Namah has remained a constant menace to his government’s stability and the biggest threat to its success.
So why has Peter O’Neill put up with his ignoramus deputy?
It is my view that the pressing requirement to be in government leading up to elections has comprised the substance of O’Neill’s government.
In other words, O’Neill is reluctant to rein-in, discipline, or ultimately remove Belden Namah as Deputy Prime Minister, despite his significant transgressions which do warrant some form of political discipline, because the risk of losing control of the government is one which he would rather not entertain.
It is politically expedient for Peter O’Neill to put up with Namah’s antics and to hope that the worst has already happened.
Sadly, this has brought O’Neill’s integrity and reputation into question, and it has also highlighted the leadership woes plaguing the current government, or the apparent lack of leadership within, as a result of O’Neill’s willingness to accept mediocrity for the advantageous position of being in government for the elections.
Nothing illustrates Peter O’Neill’s lack of control within his coalition government better than the tabling of the motion last week Thursday in parliament which deferred elections by six months.
Peter O’Neill took part in that vote which passed the House 63 to 11 following a 90-minute debate. He stood and voted for the suspension, but did not address parliament. Parliament also voted to order electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen to ask Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio for the suspension.
Two days later and O’Neill had done a complete back-flip stating that instead of a six month deferral, he wanted an early election because he believed that:
“Parliament was not fully briefed on the status of the preparations of the elections by the chief electoral commissioner”.
He also stated that the initial motion was not approved by the NEC prior to its tabling.
Then today, when addressing the multitude of protesters at Sir John Guise stadium, O’Neill stated that:
“Parliament does not have the power to direct the electoral commissioner [and that] Parliament will not interfere with the electoral commissioner”.
This contradictory habit which has proven to be endemic within the O’Namah experiment thus far has severely brought into disrepute the credibility of this government to handle the affairs of the nation.
Furthermore, the symptoms of this political circus has manifested itself at the top echelons of PNG politics for the world to see – with Peter O’Neill’s repeated indecisiveness also bringing into question his leadership as Prime Minister.
It is becoming more and more clear that O’Neill has a weak grasp on his coalition and that he is being driven and directed, beyond his control or sphere of influence, to take part in actions which he may not agree with or even be aware of.
In addition, those once credible leaders who decided to switch sides have now been made to look like fools and at least complicit in the political circus that has engulfed PNG.
Ironically, the only thing for certain now is that the political circus that is the O’Namah Government will do as many back-flips, juggling and disappearing acts as required, despite their displeasure of each other, to allow themselves to remain in power for the elections – not for the people of PNG, but for own personal interests.