Peter O’Neill’s Schizophrenic Leadership
As PNG’s political impasse has unfolded, one of its more unsettling characteristics has been the constant back-flipping and flip-flopping of certain decisions and statements made by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Cabinet.
Never before have I ever witnessed a PNG government, comprised of what appears to be a coalition that seems to lack a publicly presented perspective of unity and cohesion – and one that seems to have developed an evolutionary instinct for antipodean statements in record time, as dysfunctional as that of the O’Namah Government.
In what's becoming a hallmark of The O'Neill experiment, the statement offers compromise after colleague induced chaos, or CIC. #PNG—
Eoin Blackwell (@EoinBlackwell) April 09, 2012
These series of political gaffes are the symptoms of a government inventing impulsive solutions to a number of issues identified and highlighted by the coalition as being critical in ensuring they remain in power prior and during the upcoming elections.
These so-called problems and issues with PNG’s state of democracy and separation of powers, surprisingly enough, have all emerged to gain significant prominence on the NEC agenda, parliament and consequently the public discourse over the past nine months.
They are also possibly manifestations of a coalition government that is lacking confidence, unsure of itself and its immediate future, and slightly apprehensive of the ongoing dispute between itself and the judiciary, and the growing public support of the people of PNG in favour of the judiciary over the executive.
Perhaps the most infuriating example of the schizophrenic government we now see is Prime Minister’s Peter O’Neill’s repeated calls during this ongoing political impasse for the need of good leadership in PNG – and his government’s apparent blatant apathy to heeding his own words.
Just last week, O’Neill addressed his Ialibu-Pangia electorate in the Southern Highlands and revealed that his government was confident of building a new ‘leadership culture’ that would put the interest of ordinary Papua New Guineans first.
“Today I want to assure the people of Ialibu-Pangia and Papua New Guinea that my government will fight vigorously to create a new leadership culture that will be responsible for meeting the needs of our people.
This government will aim to fix the rot that has been created over the past 36 years. It will not be easy but we will do our best.
We are doing this because we care for the well-being of our people, the silent majority. Our people and country deserve better from our leaders and I want to assure you all that my fight against corruption is not yet over.
In fact, it has just started. I am still young and will fight harder to make sure leaders who have been involved in corrupt practices are dealt with accordingly.
We must all work together and elect good leaders who can change this country for the better.”
Although the substance of O’Neill’s statement must be applauded, it is difficult to be comforted much by such words when the actions and comments of the O’Namah Coalition do not reflect the stated intent of O’Neill’s address and re-gurgled message.
Furthermore, Peter O’Neill’s track record of enforcing accountability amongst his own ranks has been poor, with the best example being the non-admonishment of his deputy Belden Namah over sexual allegations at Sydney’s Star City Casino.
It is examples like this, and O’Neill’s endorsement of several controversial legislative amendments which have tampered with the rule of law, including constitutional democracy and the independence of the judiciary, that have highlighted the schizophrenic nature of his leadership and government.
What has really perturbed me is the exhibition that O’Neill and Namah appear to steadfastly believe that they are indeed doing the right thing for PNG – and that their actions are indeed in the best interest of the people.
It is difficult to pinpoint where exactly this sense of righteousness has originated from – a plausible explanation may be O’Namah’s once strong, but now quickly diminishing, political capital – but despite its source, there is no doubt that this misguided belief permeates every current thought process of the O’Namah Coalition.
This has been the primary justification of their own actions starting with the Judicial Conduct Act and now possibly venturing into the territory of more legislative amendments which will further demean the state of PNG’s democracy.
This is yet another symptom of the schizophrenic leadership we are witnessing today.
Just when exactly O’Namah will wake up and smell the roses is uncertain. That is why this current period of political uncertainty has the potential to be dangerous for PNG, our institutions and our people.