More Challenges for Somare

NATIONAL EDITORIAL

THE government of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare gained itself a three-month reprieve from a serious challenge to his leadership.
Parliament stands adjourned to November but, what relieve the government might have earned, it will not be enjoyed by the prime minister himself.
His challenge has only just begun.
His leadership is challenged not only from without but, more importantly, from within. It is highly likely he will not take the National Alliance to the 2012 general elections as its head.
Signs of the strain were already evident yesterday when, as parliament was rising, the PM pointed across at Bulolo MP Sam Basil and told him: “Bai mi kilim yu autsait (I will kill you outside).”
However way it is interpreted, and however hard the prime minister’s media unit tries to dilute the intentions of the PM, the threat remains and is unbecoming of an elder statesman, a man famously described as the “father of the nation”.
While three ministries have been volunteered to him by his former deputy and the culture and tourism and forest ministers, he will still have to accommodate many more of his disgruntled backbench and coalition partners into the ministry.
At least one coalition partner in the United Resources Party had made known its desire to have more ministries allocated to it and it got it yesterday.
The PM had to increase the size of cabinet to the just approved 32 ministries without removing any incumbent minister. He cannot afford to remove any of the existing ministers as it would only ferment discontent and discord further.
Even ministerial adjustments will not satisfy his own National Alliance frontbench in the likes of Highlands faction leader, Don Polye, who would have scuttled ship as well were it not for Sir Puka Temu.
They could not both leave NA and seek to go for the one post of prime minister, so Sir Puka left to take the fight to the PM from the outside while Polye remained with high hopes of being offered the job from within.
The strategy worked for Polye, not Sir Puka.
It might be a sign that Polye is the heir apparent with his appointment yesterday as deputy prime minister.
Still the Jiwaka party convention next month will have to make certain whether Polye is heir apparent or not.
The Mamose faction of the National Alliance also will be pressing the prime minister to settle their differences and give them a deputy leader they can live with.
Were the honours to fall on the most senior Mamose MP after the PM, which would be Angoram MP Arthur Somare, there would be much disgruntlement, particularly from the Mamose faction that feel it is past time power were not centralised in the Sepik or with the Somare family.
The disgruntlement can lead to a walkout as well.
The New Guinea Islands faction has some differences, particularly in the deputy leadership of National Planning and Implementation Minister Paul Tiensten, but he has sufficient enough support to put his hand up for the top post.
With the resources available to him, particularly since he controls the development budget and the more important (to politicians at least) Rural Development Office, which oversees the district services improvement funds, he can garner quite a lot of support nationally.
And, of course, there is the son: Arthur Somare.
Yesterday, we mentioned in this space that, unfortunately, this man lives in the shadow of his father and, try as he might, he cannot get out from that shadow until the shadow moves itself. That might be soon but, until then, he will have to put a lid on his own political ambitions, including that of aspiring for the top post until the shadow of his father has moved from active politics.
Unfortunate but that is, as they say, the way the cookie crumbles.
Of course, Somare has mentioned a couple of times in the past that he will not aspire for the top post, but he is a good candidate for the post were it not for the filial relationship with the incumbent prime minister.
He works very hard and has a giant impact on bringing the LNG project to fruition. That is the mark of a good leader but political reality dictates the moment and, so, this is not Somare’s moment in the sun.

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