The first thing you’ll notice about the above image is that it’s a ‘Government House’ gate, but behind it is not somewhere in PNG. It’s a nice looking mansion though but for many of us it would just be a dream. Now as the day dawns on Day 3 at the gates of Government House, no one from either Somare or O’Neill’s side has been able to paint us a picture of what they see for PNG should they be allowed past this gate. All we can hear at the moment from both parties is ‘me, me, me and my government this and my government that’.
So what do we the people want? We who created the Constitution and we who elected these so called leaders to the positions they are today. Do we know what we want past those gates?
One of the popular suggestions was that the Governor General dissolve Parliament and take PNG to the next elections. However it appears from Constitutional Lawyer, Tony Regan that the Governor General, has no powers to dissolve Parliament like in other Commonwealth countries. According to Regan, our Constitution (s.86(2)) states that our “…Head of State shall act only with, and in accordance with, the advice of the National Executive Council, or of some other body or authority prescribed by a Constitutional Law or an Act of the Parliament…”
So our Governor General is stuck in the sticky situation of having to decide whether the Supreme Court ruling decides the Prime Minister or whether an amended Act of Parliament decides the Prime Minister.
Just to be clear, Somare claims to be Prime Minister because of the court ruling that the Speakers actions of dismissing him was illegal and thus he had technically always been Prime Minister, (never mind the fact that his own son Arthur had declared him unfit to continue as Prime Minister several months ago). O’Neill on the other hand claims to be Prime Minister because they had passed retrospective laws before the Somare decision which made the Speakers actions perfectly legal. In addition O’Neill has the numbers and the National Executive Council in his party. So legally it would appear that Somare does not have the same legal footing, especially since it is the Parliament that ultimately decides a government and its Prime Minister and not a Court Decision. Remember that the Court Decision for Somare was only interpreting the law, you will sooner or later need to sit in Parliament to decide the Government.
Although both sides may go on and on about protecting the Constitution, both are just as guilty as the other in using their powers to seek their own constitutional agendas. Lawyer John Nonggorr outlined O’Neill’s dangerous precedents here and Somare had his Moti issue as well, among others. So who are both Somare and O’Neill trying to kid here?
Both sides however are adamant about giving up their positions and the Governor General upon seeking legal advise is still yet to make a decision on who to let into his gates. (It is interesting though that on the last 2 days at Government House, he has allowed Somare to wait in the house while he decides while O’Neill has had to push and fight his way to get past the gates. Whether it is an indication of something it is yet to be seen). As it stands the best option could likely be that the Governor General gets them both to come to some sort of compromise as he stated yesterday afternoon.
Maybe now would be a good time to draw upon our long Melanesian traditions of killing pigs and bringing leaders together in times of war to find peaceful ways to reconcile and discuss solutions. The winner takes all attitude has never really been a part of our culture and it has ended up distorting the way we have developed our style of Westminster government, but anyway that’s another story.
So moving forward, my cousin Vergil nominated the following names for five people to be picked from the list below to mediate between the two parties. These are his names which quickly came to mind for him, but please share if you have other suggestions:
1. Chronox Manek;
2. Paulias Matane;
3. Meg Taylor;
4. John Momis;
5. John Nonggorr;
6. Judge Kandakasi;
7. Rev. Samson Lowa;
8. Archbishop John Ribat;
9. Ila Geno; and
10. Jean Kekedo.
The Terms Of Reference for the mediation process could be as follows. Again please feel free to delete, add, amend:
1. Draw up an MOU between parties;
2. MOU to cover both parties compromising;
3. Agreed process to select new PM within confines of law within agreed time frame;
4. Parliament to agree for Somare to retain his East Sepik Provincial Government seat;
5.Grievances resolution process from now until elections;
6.Set up Parliamentary Committee to review the whole process and recommend changes to the law.
At the end of the day, as elected leaders, do they really go home each afternoon asking themselves if what they are doing is the right thing for us everyday Papua New Guineans? And if they want to keep fighting at the gates then what picture are they trying to show us past those gates?
Ultimately though, with only 7 months to go to the next General Elections, what are Somare and O’Neill fighting for? There is nothing more important now than making sure we have a thorough and effective polling period next year and this is what we get? Right now, Somare and O’Neill are simply constitutionally dangerous embarrassments.