Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SOMARE DEFIANT

Somare:Losing grip with reality
In Papua New Guinea Sir Michael Somare is refusing to relinquish a claim to the Prime Ministership despite the seeming unassaible position of his rival. PNG's governor-general has met Peter O'Neill and his supporters, prompting speculation the leadership crisis is closer to being resolved. In Parliament, Mr O'Neill announced that last week's suspension of Governor-General, Sir Michael Ogio had been lifted. The speaker, Geoffrey Nape said Sir Michael Ogio had written a letter apologising for swearing at ministers loyal to the former prime minister, Sir Michael Somare last week. Mr O'Neill and his supporters travelled to Government House on Monday afternoon to meet with the head of state. A box of champagne was also taken inside. Mr O'Neill said the meeting was a courtesy call to reconcile with the governor-general.

Observers say Mr O'Neill has the support of a large number of the public, as well as the parliament. But Sir Michael has remained defiant, saying he intended to become prime minister once more. In an interview on Radio Australia's Pacific Beat, Sir Michael last week's Supreme Court judgement reinstating him meant he had the right to be prime minister again, with or without parliamentary support. "The numbers in parliament is irrevelant when we have a Constitution which is supreme," Sir Michael said. "We only have 40 members. With 40 members, we won't be able to pass anything." But when pushed on the lack of support in Parliament, Sir Michael reacted angrily: "Keep your distance. Report the facts that exist in our country. "For god's sake! Know what you people are doing."

Papua New Guinea's union movement withdrew its threat to call a strike amidst the political leadership confusion. On Friday, PNG's Trade Union's Council announced the O'Neill and Somare political factions had 48 hours to end their fight, or it would send its members on strike. But council president Michael Malabag said it was decided today to withdraw that ultimatum. "If the union movement comes up with something drastic, it will only give an opportunity for others to use this for other means," he said. Mr Malabag added that, with the holiday season approaching, many industries and offices shut down, which would make industrial action ineffective.

Meanwhile, PNG's top bureaucrat said the public service recognises Peter O'Neill as the country's legitimate prime minister. Chief Secretary Manusupe Zurenuoc said he consulted both Mr O'Neill and Sir Michael before making his decision on who to follow. Despite the Supreme Court's order that Sir Michael be reinstated as PM, Mr Zurenuoc says the majority rules in PNG. He said Mr O'Neill has the control of cabinet and parliament; Sir Michael does not. At a meeting of departmental heads on Monday, Mr Zurenuoc told them to meet the ministers appointed by Mr O'Neill, saying a lot of time and money has been wasted from events unfolding in the last week. He has told the public service to get back to work. ABC's Radio Australia has increased its shortwave broadcasts to Papua New Guinea to help inform people about developments in the PNG political crisis. Between 0930 and 1700 Port Moresby time, an extra frequency, 17750 kHz, will be added to the broadcast services for PNG.

RADIO AUSTRALIA NEWS REPORTS