/PNG Opposition declares the game is on as PM thwarts plans to oust him

PNG Opposition declares the game is on as PM thwarts plans to oust him

Updated

May 08, 2019 11:40:14

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister has staved off an attack on his leadership, adjourning the country’s Parliament for three weeks ahead of a planned vote of no confidence in him.

Key points:

  • Mr O’Neill used a nine-vote margin to adjourn Parliament for three weeks
  • That will stymie Opposition plans to move a vote of no confidence
  • The latest chapter in PNG’s political drama comes after senior ministers resigned

Despite insisting it would have a majority, the Opposition bloc that was trying to oust PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill fell short of the numbers when Parliament sat.

The latest chapter in PNG’s political fracas came after several senior ministers abandoned their portfolios and joined the Opposition.

Mr O’Neill used a nine-vote margin on the floor (59–50) to adjourn Parliament for three weeks.

That will stymie Opposition plans to move a vote of no confidence in him next week.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the latest defections, Mr O’Neill insisted he was safe and his Government was intact.

“The Government is well and truly solid,” he said.

Mr O’Neill, who has held the prime ministership for seven years, said the adjournment was necessary to replace ministers who had resigned their posts.

Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said the Opposition had submitted a notice of its vote of no confidence to the Speaker shortly after Parliament adjourned and remained committed to ousting Mr O’Neill when Parliament returns on May 28.

“The game is on,” he said.

The roads around Parliament House were closed by police ahead of the sitting and cars trying to enter the area were checked.

The highly-anticipated session of Parliament was watched by a packed public gallery and streamed live to a sizable audience on social media.

The days of political drama came to a head with shadow treasurer Ian Ling Stuckey asking Mr O’Neill why he was still in his job.

“Prime Minister, why did you not step down earlier, and offer your failing leadership to more competent leaders such as your former finance minister … or even to your very indecisive deputy,” Mr Stuckey said, adding the Treasurer was “unable to fix the economy”.

Mr O’Neill dismissed the call for his resignation.

“I don’t have to resign because he’s asking me to resign. Who are you?” he said.

Frustration in the ranks

The threat to Mr O’Neill’s leadership has been building for weeks and began with the shock resignation of finance minister James Marape, who cited a lack of trust between him and the Prime Minister.

Seven other resignations followed, including that of the Attorney-General.

Mr O’Neill briefly appeared to have shored up support, but another nine MPs abandoned the Coalition Government shortly after.

Paul Barker, the director of the Institute of National Affairs in Port Moresby, said the decision to adjourn Parliament was a stalling tactic.

“The reason is clearly a desire to ensure himself that he’s got the teams … neither side is fully assured of their numbers and he wants to minimise the risks and see if he can consolidate the numbers,” he told Pacific Beat.

“I’m not being cynical, I’m just being realistic.”

Mr Barker said the Prime Minister should address some of the defectors’ concerns.

“For the finance minister and the justice minister both to step aside voluntarily and to give up high office does suggest that their frustrations were quite significant,” he said.

“So he really does need to take that on board because clearly there is a level of frustration within his own ranks … that decision making is being determined by a rather small coterie and lack of consultation using the Cabinet.”

The Prime Minister said he and his colleagues had had “frank” discussions about the leadership of the party.

“They have reaffirmed my position as leader of the party,” he said.

“Certainly one day there will be change … these issues will be decided at our party convention in 2021, one year before the elections.”

Topics:

world-politics,

political-parties,

papua-new-guinea,

pacific

First posted

May 08, 2019 11:34:17