Rivals Claim Throne In Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea’s political impasse continues even though Michael Somare was reinstated today as prime minister by Governor-General. Peter O’Neill, the rival, is still in Government House claiming that he is the country’s rightful leader.

Since August, Mr O’Neill was the prime minister. This was after MPs voted for Sir Michael to be replaced. Sir Michael had been unwell for several months in Singapore following heart surgery. On Monday, the Supreme Court of PNG ruled that Sir Michael’s removal was invalid as the position was not vacant.

He should therefore be reinstated. Yesterday, Parliament re-elected Mr O’Neill. He had on Monday pushed through a Police Cordon at Government House with his support MPs. Australian diplomats were threatened and jostled by police. Sir Michael, who held the post of prime minister in Australia for 16 years, was reportedly the one who set up the Ela Beach Hotel in Port Moresby to form an alternative parliament.

Below Are The Reactions Papua Of Experts

Many are at stake in the Papua New Guinea crises resulting from the Supreme Court’s December 12th 2011 decision stating that the August 2nd, 2011 Parliament’s removal of Michael Somare (PM) was invalid.

PNG’s government control allows for wealth and power. However, it also means that the resources necessary to support the outcome of the 2012 national elections are in PNG’s hands. Supporters of Somare may not be able to win the presidency because of his serious health issues. The stakes for the PNG population are greater, with the potential to endanger the constitution.

Most media reports emphasize the Supreme Court’s decision that Somare was not constitutionally remove from office. This view appears to have won the Governor-General (G–G), who, on the morning 14th December, recognized Somare as PM and swore in his Cabinet.

These developments ignore arguments for O’Neil’s rights to be PM. Monday 12 December saw Parliament pass retrospective amendments to PNG’s Prime Minister Act and National Executive Council Act. These acts were intend to correct the flaws in O’Neil’s August appointment as PM. The Constitution of PNG states that Parliament is the supreme body and is subject to the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that the amending law had changed the status quo.

Reserve Powers Under Papua

The G-G shouldn’t have been call upon to solve the problem, as it has no reserve powers under the PNG Constitution. It must instead act only on advice and in accordance to the advice of another authority. The Parliament is the authority that appoints a PM. If Parliament has passed legislation to correct the Court’s defect, it is probable that the G-G should have followed the decision of Parliament.

There are grounds to challenge Monday’s constitutional validity. However, such issues should be decide by the Supreme Court and not the G-G. In an ideal world, Somare would have asked the Supreme Court for a declaration of invalidity to end the situation.

Both sides are at risk because they believe they have a constitutionally valid power. O’Neil has a strong majority in Parliament, while Somare has Supreme Court support. Both sides will find it difficult to retreat.

Supreme Court Is A Respected

PNG’s Supreme Court is a respected institution that has been able to resolve constitutional Papua crises. All sides have accepted its rulings. The Court’s current situation is worrying in that it has become so involved in the controversy that it may be unable to help resolve the changing situation. This would have grave implications for the long-term.

The most dangerous aspect of the situation, however, is the politicisation, division and support for both sides by significant factions within the Police. The risks of violence increasing dramatically, and dangerous precedents set.

The PNG constitution and political systems are more resilient than outsiders think. People of goodwill, whether from the church, NGOs, or within political factions, tend to be more encouraging than those who are not. The task of moderating influence will prove difficult given the stakes for these two main groups. Outcomes remain unpredictable.

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