By Erasmus Baraniak
[In August 2012, in between the elections, saw the publication of the following article concerning the urgency of Peter ONeill to stamp his leadership on PNG, with the opportunity to take this nation on a new path, its own path, a path to hold the nation and the Pacific Region to a new beachhead, in which PNG will shine its leadership over the smaller Melanesian and Polynesian nations of the Pacific as envisaged by our founding fathers like the great Paramount Chief Kondom Agaunduo of the Narengu Tribe of the Simbu Province.
I was not alone in my concerns over O’Neil’s worrying overtures toward Julia Gillard since 2nd August 2011 toward taking PNG and regressing its sovereignty to a period post 1975. Many Papua New Guineans saw Peter ONeill being easily wined and dined by Australian agents including High Commissioner Ian Kemish as a very worrying trend. Normal protocols of State and diplomacy were easily forgotten or dispensed with, and the Australian diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel appeared to be emerging from every pore, nook and cranny of places like the Airways Hotel, and other places with ONeill in toe. Never before has any Prime Minister of this country departed with protocol and subjected himself to the wiles of another country as ONeill was doing.
Some saw it as a way of ONeill ingratiating himself with the Australians as rewarding them for recognizing his government. Others saw it quite differently; that he was aware of the intelligence (dirt) Australia had collated on him over the years and he had to sell the furniture and the farm so he could have an easy passage and ascension, and not be assailed by inquiries or revelations in the Post Courier in terms of:
1. inquiries into his own questionable business dealings, including NPF Inquiry legacy issues,
2. transfer of funds from questionable sources across national borders,
3. failure to declare his beneficial interest to the Ombudsman in numerous businesses in PNG,
4. fear of being held accountable for over K500 Million of public funds that he personally directed ( through then Secretary Peter Kora) to be paid into dubious (ghost) projects by the National Planning Department during the impasse period (which were used by him and his cronies for election and other improper purposes) which ONeill was aware the Australian officers in Department of Planning and Finance were aware of,
5. Millions of US Dollars held in overseas ( eg, Singapore) accounts in Peter ONeills name from dubious sources which the Australians are aware of,
6. the Housing deal with Sir Fredrick Reiher in which Millions of Kina went missing and unaccounted for which Peter ONeill presided over as Public Service Minister during the reign of Somare, which implicated Peter ONeill directly in the money trail which the Australians have known for a long time,
7. Many dubious transactions in which ONeill benefited directly or indirectly as a member of Somare’s Kitchen Cabinet which includes the PNG LNG Gas Agreement with Exxon signed with his knowledge and participation in Perth, the Purchase of the Falcon Jet for an inflated price of at least K60 Million more than it was worth in the market place. This was done between ONeill, Pruiach, Arthur and Tiensten. Someone needs to ask the French Manufacturers/Vendors who they paid the difference to, and
8. In terms of the impending General Elections and whether the Australians could assist him to win and retain power.
Not only was 2012 an election year, but it was also an Olympic year that saw our Toea Wisil shine on the international stage and did us all proud.
The following article was written as a reflection on the spirit of Papua New Guineans, as one people, and with the political events that unfolded of smashing the constitution and the Judiciary to install the ONeill-Namah government, and the above list of variables that we were uncomfortably becoming aware of, there was some justifiable trepidation as to which way Peter ONeill was going to lead us.]
ORIGINAL ARTICLE- THE HEART AND SOUL OF MELANESIA.
I. Our Moments of Triumph.
“Our moments of triumph on the Olympic stage have not been many. We have had our moments over the last 37 years in the regional sporting events like the Commonwealth Games, the Arafura Games, the South Pacific and the Mini South Pacific Games. In an Olympic year, we are contemplating playing host once again to the next South Pacific Games and the government and the ONeill-Namah political Leadership has not been serious about what is and what ought to have been a matter of priority and pride. The nation is about to face its moment of truth on the regional and international stage. We are about to reveal once again for all to see what we have been about for the last 37 years, at least since the last time we hosted the Games here- then courtesy of the kind people of the People’s Republic of China. At least we had a Sir Anthony Siaguru to lead us out with a committee of equally talented people, showcased and acquitted well of the nation they represented.
Oh how, on the last occasion we hosted the SP Games, the red gold and black fluttered in the steady South-Westerly, and our hearts were instantaneously lifted to greater heights of palpitation, as our athletes triumphed, and we could believe once again in ourselves, and this social contract we signed in 1975 to be one nation, one people and one country. We triumphed then with more gold silver and bronze than ever before, or since! Every Kiwai, Siwai, Tolai, Highlander, Kande, Orokaiva, Orokolo, Sol and Tasi walked out of that stadium proud. We shared and savored those precious few moments of triumph with tears streaming down our faces. We turned and looked at each other wide eyed and mingling tears of uncertainty with those of joy and elation. We knew we will always be one people, a people cast together by history, held together by unbreakable cords of culture steeped in tradition and an ancient agrarian civilization that pre-dates Mesopotamia’s Fertile Crescent and the code of Hammurabi; nevertheless pushed almost prematurely into the limelight of 21st Century, to sink or swim, live or die.
Together we chose life.
Whilst the odds were always staked against us, and some even called us stone aged primitives, while others whispered,”… they won’t make it…”, it is in rare moments of sporting triumph like this, pitted against their best, on a clear sky blue day and on a level playing field, we came together and asserted resoundingly that we have arrived on the world’s Centre stage! That we are an ancient people, we are a strong people, we are the largest nation in the Pacific Islands, we are the pre-historic home of Melanesia, we are a serious people, and we shall be taken seriously by our other Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian, and other neighbors. Whether they like it or not, whether they like our way of doing things or not, we are here and we are asserting ourselves, and assert we did at that and every other SP Game since. Who would have predicted how we would turn out as a nation and a people in 1973 when we were granted Self Government so hurriedly by the Gorton/Whitlam Governments of Canberra?
II. Kondom Agaunduo
In the late 1960-early 1970s in one of those South Pacific Commission Meetings held in the capital of one of our Polynesian countries, the Paramount Chief of the Chimbu people, and he may as well have been the Chief of all the Highlanders, because he was a tall towering and imposing Simbu, who stood as tall as the mountains, and firm as his native rock of Elimbari. When he spoke, his dozen wives and tribes men far and near came and drank of his words in utter silence, words that flowed seamlessly like the Waghi giving life to a deeply farrowed land. But this time, his solemn maiden chiefly address to the South Pacific Commission in tok pisin was mocked, perhaps because of his earnest but equally farrowed facial features. Perhaps it was because he didn’t understand a word of English, or because they couldn’t understand him, and couldn’t reply. He did look like someone out of the stone-age, but his heart was earnest and his composure and demeanor true, but nevertheless he felt the bitter sting of a thousand wasps buzzing around his head. He couldn’t speak English. Realizing, from the laughter and the polite nods that he had just become the laughing stock of the Pacific, and realizing he carried with him, not only the pride of the Narengu tribe of Chimbu, and of the Highlands, but also of an ancient nation of people he represented, Kondom Agaunduo stood up and spoke in pisin and uttered those famous lines… ” yupela harim ah! Nau mi kam long hia na toktok na yupela lap long mi. Em I orait. Tomoro bai mi salim ol pikinini bilong mi i kam. Taim ol I kam, bai yupela no nap lap long ol! “
With that he sat down.
Paramount Chief Kondom Agaunduo now lies in silent repose in his village on the side of the Highway named after an equally imposing political force of the Simbu people, one of the finest sons that Chief Kondom spoke of. Kondom was a man before his time. He was a Chief and Luluai, a cultural hero who brought progress to Chimbu in the early colonial period. He was the first Simbu coffee grower, father of the Chimbu Coffee Cooperative, Member of the District Advisory Council, Observer to the First Legislative Council in Port Moresby. Before his premature death from a car accident, he was truly a pioneer who craved education and progress for his people so that they could meet or match the whiteman, a man without pigs, on his own terms, and triumph. He was resolute and uncompromising in this cause. His leadership, punctuated by long eloquent speeches, was impeccable. There was no ounce of self interest in his cause. His cause was that of every Chimbu to advance.
III. What About Bougainville?
Our moments of triumph on the sporting field have been shared together, as highlanders, Momases, NGIs and Papuans- groupings that then came naturally as we tried to define ourselves along our geographic regions. Yet these groupings sit very un-comfortably with our own assertion and notion as one people and one nation. Today we have indeed become one people and one nation with complex web of intermarriages between the different regions and peoples in a way that we could not have imagined before. When corporate greed threatened to blow us apart, and it did for many years for thousands on Bougainville, one man, a cultural and national hero from Karkar Island, stood up and defied all odds to put a stop to the blood bath that was about to unfold.
Major General Jerry Singirok underwent a period of self-examination and self-assessment for some time at his office in Murray Barracks. After all that was done, he stood up, and he stood by the oath he took before God and man to protect the Constitution, his nation, his people in Bougainville and on the mainland. He realized in time that if he didn’t stand up, he would by his conduct have revoked the Constitutional framework that held us together as a people, and cut adrift the people of Bougainville. He summoned the courage to defy vulgar political direction and greedy corporate puppetry from outside. When Jerry Singirok triumphed personally over the evil that was about to be served, a chalice of blood, a slaughter that appeared inevitable, the whole nation triumphed. We all exhaled in great shared relief! Whew!
Many a child who was born in the 1980s, educated to feel equally eloquent and masters of their own destiny, deserving of a great future in this country, today find themselves having to invariably come to terms with political legacies and historical events like Bougainville, constantly ask themselves this question- what was all that about? The mothers of Bougainville, who survived, who suffered through loss of their own sons, daughters and husbands, are still asking that question to this day. While the fallen soldiers were draped in the red black and gold, the fallen in Bougainville lie scattered all over that island of sorrow, and their spirits still wander unrequited. Deep down, every mother in Bougainville still ask, why did the nation turn its guns on us? Why did Bougainville become the Island of sorrow? Can we as a nation triumph together in sporting fields like the coming SP Games and in other spheres if we do not deal with Bougainville, look at our brother in the eye and honestly feel the same blood pulsating through our veins? How can we explain Bougainville to our children that they, as intelligent human beings with inquisitive minds, can make sense of it? How can the fatherless and the motherless children of Bougainville who also struggle daily with their permanent condition be consoled? And how do they further explain it to their children?
We cannot explain Bougainville, the shedding of innocent blood, the birthing of an Island of orphans and widows, in any other way than the sense of corporate greed, and blatant disregard for human lives and the rights of human beings by so called civilized nations, acting secretively through off-balance sheet black ops operatives. No one has gone behind the scenes to expose the people behind the people in Sandline.
Faceless men in glass steel and concrete towers in faraway lands, powerful governments and their operatives, use money and influence and do deals and sign papers that instantaneously spill the blood innocent people all over the world. It was the South Americas yesterday, and today it is the Middle-East, with Africa the ongoing playground of those who want to pawn off the lives of the starving innocent using contentions of old tribal rifts and religious differences as convenient divisive tools. The death of the cold war has spawned new wars, wars that relate directly to control and exploitation of scarce resources and energy fields, that will see the rise and re-ordering of civilisation as we know. While those who conceived Sandline have long melted into the shadows, governments involved quickly cut off connections, shredded the papers, wiped the footprints and claimed innocence; the Queen sits with a solemn smile on her throne, and the Kangaroos still graze peacefully in the meadows. Long gone are the sounds of machine guns and echoes of the cries of children looking for their mothers.
Today, they come with bundles of money to “help” the people of Bougainville. It’s the re-building and restoration program. How wonderfully generous the help is to us with roads, health centres, and ports. Roads that may one day carry our copper and gold out again, and ports that may see ships bearing all manner of colors once more berth, but let us not even contemplate that for now. For now, having put up his hand for Sumkar and lost to an Australian Naturalized citizen, Jerry Singirok, sits back on his Island home to contemplate and take stock of his gains and losses, his friends and his foes, especially those who pretend to be friends but were really against him. He savours the sting of deception, like the buzz and sting of a thousand wasps. No war would have prepared him for this public admonition. In the 2012 elections, more so than ever before, the Australian Defence and intelligence played a very heavy hand, and made no secret about the fact of who Canberra wants installed as the new Prime Minister. Jerry Singirok of all people was in a better position to know and understand what was really at stake.
IV. Australian Complicity in Disposal of Somare.
On the 2nd of August 2011, Australia engineered the disposal of Somare while he was in Hospital. They used ONeill’s ambition, Nape’s greed and Namah’s stupidity. Then when the courts were called upon to intervene, Julia Gillard used a political bulldozer to recognize ONeill’s government. She pre-empted the Supreme Court, the sole arbiter under the Constitution to deal with the question of legitimacy of Peter ONeill as Prime Minister. Having realized she stuffed up, she was not going to back off. She used High Commissioner Kemish as the diplomatic ramming rod, tons of money, and the full swag of intelligence tools at its disposal, including the complicity of the Post Courier, to push for Peter ONeill. There was nothing diplomatic about Ian Kemish’s role. Australia was instrumental in the smashing of the Judiciary and the Constitution. Australia moved its people into key positions within the Electoral Commission, and even brought in its military and SAS veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to run a separate communications and operations capability parallel to the PNG security forces. All this was done to ensure one result- Peter ONeill to form the next government. It was a job well done for Ian Kemish, who unlike any other High Commissioner before him, was prepared to get his hands dirty, and do some of the dirty work himself in both overt and covert opertaions. As a diplomat, he has trod where angels wouldn’t dare to tread.
What a brave man this Ian Kemish is, for he has successfully and almost singlehandedly displayed the full length and breadth of the power of Australia over Papua New Guinea politics. He has shown other diplomats in almost resounding terms, who owns and runs this country! And for this he would have earned a long holiday somewhere in Europe, and for sure almost endless career possibilities with the Commonwealth, a job well done in any one’s language.
Somare and other elder statesmen have played the only card they could play under the circumstances. But their card no longer carries any personal ambitions. They have been there and done that. There is no anger or resentment left in Chan, Somare or even Wingti. They have measured ambitions, which involve issues of what form or shape of legacy will they all and each leave for this nation. How will they be remembered after they pass? Each one of them have had a by-pass operation. Each is living on time that has been graciously extended to them. And each of them has known what it is like to have and hold power, exercise power, and what a heady thing that is!
The real issue for Somare Chan and Wingti, and others of the elder Statesmen around ONeill , is how much of the love for the RED GOLD and BLACK can they impart to Peter ONeill and get him away from the charms of money, wealth, fame and more fortune promised to him by those who now like cicadas whisper incessantly into his ears. Papua New Guineans know the deals O’Neill has done over the years. We know his various businesses that are run openly and those behind others. We know of his associations with the likes of young George Constantinou and the Cragnolinis. We know the straight and the crooked deals he made, just as we know the deeds of others. We also know of the political deals, he has done with Australia in return for political recognition after the 2nd of August 2011 knifing robbery. The real question is, can he stand up for the RED GOLD & BLACK? Or will he be just another good native?
The signs are already fairly ominous of a sell-out job done by Peter ONeill. He needs these next 18 months to prove to the rest of us that he is a true nationalist, that the genes of his native mother will always outweigh those of his Irish Father, that he will rise to be a better Prime Minister, and better at negotiating competing interests and triumphing over those who want to turn him and his office into their Post Office Box. He will have to do better than he has done so far to show us that our lives and our resources are safe from the marauding corporate raiders who are crowding his social calendar even now. He has to demonstrate that the mothers of Bougainville who lost their sons fighting for their land and resources have not died in vain. He has to show us that the blood of the innocent spilled on Bougainville was for a cause of equal worth, and that indeed he will use this term of Prime Minister-ship to initiate a ministry of healing of the nation., to reconcile us as brother to brother, that our blood can flow through our veins once again from one heartbeat.
For Somare who signed the First Project Agreement for Bougainville and for Chan who signed to spill blood, this will be a fitting closure, for the past to be properly buried, and for the future to be welcomed together. For without properly dealing with these matters, we can never wipe the sorrow from the Islands of Bougainville.
Is Peter ONeill one of the sons that the great Simbu Chief Kondom Agaunduo spoke of in his maiden speech to the SPC, or is he just another ‘yes’ man for the Australians, doing their bidding so that he can increase his own barns, while the rest of the country starve? Does Peter ONeill have the smarts of a modern education and business acumen to really serve the national interest, or will be be just another drunken politician, pandering to his mates, and the sharks and vultures already circling around and above the nation?
While the nation prepares to host the next South Pacific Games, will we be proud to cheer our red black and gold? Does Peter ONeill possess the skill, courage, mental, intellectual and moral fortitude to rise to the call of the nation, not only give us cause to celebrate and showcase our nation in the games, but show those sharks and vultures that circle us, preying on us and our resources, that this is the land of an ancient people, a people of pride, strength and culture? That we will not be bought or sold for political or economic convenience? That the birth place of the Melanesian nations- the heart and soul of Melanesia is not for sale? These questions are only for Peter ONeill to answer, and prove his mettle. If he fails, then that will be his legacy, and his only, because we will not be bought or sold by anyone, and our sons will see to that, even as they did on Bougainville.”
A POST SCRIPT
[I don’t think Papua New Guineans have to wonder anymore on where exactly Peter ONeill has taken us to and what he has done to our Sovereignty, the Constitution and Parliament.
Immediately during the impasse period Peter ONeill as Prime Minister of the questionable impasse government, with the question of its legitimacy pending before the Supreme Court, he began signing a whole raft of Agreements with Australia. These Agreements were not vetted and certified by the State Solicitor and the Departments of Foreign Affairs Treaty Division as normal government protocol for their propriety and legal correctness. These Agreements were signed without Cabinet Approval. These Agreements never made it to Parliament for approval or ratification, and nevertheless Mr ONeill (and Australian government and its bureaucrats out of Canberra) fully intended that the Sovereign State of PNG and its government, PNG Cabinet, PNG Parliament, PNG Judiciary, and the people of PNG would be bound by these Agreements.
Julia Gillard, to consolidate her position on these Agreements and safeguard them, (the signing of which were the very first thing that Peter ONeill did as a matter of Foreign engagement), she openly and vocally granted the impasse government political recognition. Other Foreign diplomats and countries did not follow suit. They were aware that that ONeill’s legitimacy as PM was a matter of Judicial interpretation by the Supreme Court, and therefore preferred to keep their powder dry.
To consolidate her position Gillard moved Australian Army and intelligence units in place both at the Electoral Commission as well as in the field, to ensure ONeill was the First sitting MP to be declared winner. After the win Australia moved an SAS team with full air support and weapons into Airways Hotel (where ONeill was staying) as ONeill’s personal protection unit, and assisted him with intelligence to ensure that he formed the government.
Against this back ground, Peter ONeill went on to sign many more Agreements with Australia on his own accord without consulting anyone else. He did as he pleased as Prime Minister. Canberra could not think up enough Agreements for ONeill to sign. He signed away PNG’s sovereignty in terms of Police and armed Forces. He signed away PNG’s control of its own public service. He signed away PNG’s control and supervision of its own banking/finance sector and money laundering functions. He signed away PNG’s control over its foreign borrowings. He signed away PNG’s control over its own Justice Department and the Judiciary.
There are many Agreements which Peter ONeill signed as an individual MP, purportedly exercising his Prime Ministership powers. The recent and the most spectacular one being the one cooked up by Rudd and a few labor swaying bureaucrats out of Canberra over the Asylum deal.
Peter ONeill did not consult NEC. Peter ONeill did not consult Parliament. Peter ONeill did not consult State Solicitor. Peter ONeill did not consult Foreign Affairs Treaty Division. If he had consulted or allowed government departments to do their job, they would have advised him the Asylum deal was clearly illegal as it was unconstitutional. Clearly this is an abuse of office and amounts to misconduct in office. This is not a proper matter for a single MP, let alone a PM, to sign on his own. The Executive Power of the people under the Constitution is vested in the NEC, not the Prime Minister. The NEC collectively exercises the executive power of the people, having complied with all proper legal requirements, which includes proper Departmental and legal clearances.
The only people Peter Oneill consults are two Australian Advisors he has working in his office as political staff who are really stooges of the Australian government, constantly consulting with the Australian High Commission, sometimes seen driving afterhours into the Australian High Commission Chancery, presumably consulting on these questionable agreements that Oneill has been signing.
Clearly, the Agreements (however many) signed by Peter Oneill alone to date are a product of abuse of power, are unconstitutional, and in the case of the Asylum Deal that agreement is in breach of international law. These Agreements need to be listed, and reviewed. It is open for the Opposition to challenge each and every one of them in court concerning their ability to bind the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
Under these circumstances, some of the questions that were posed in the original article concerning Peter ONeill are posed again against over 24 months of proven performance:
1. While the nation prepares to host the next South Pacific Games, will we (as Bougainvilleans and as Papua New Guineans) be proud to cheer our red black and gold?
2. Has Peter ONeill demonstrated that he possesses the skill, courage, mental, intellectual and moral fortitude to rise to the call of the nation, not only give us cause to celebrate and showcase our nation in the games, but to demonstrate leadership to protect this nation, its ancient culture and its resources against the sharks and vultures that encircle us, preying on us and our resources?
3. Has Peter ONeill demonstrated that he has the mettle to protect the sovereignty of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, its Constitution, its Government Apparatus and Departments, and the people of PNG and ensure we will not be bought or sold for political or economic convenience?
4. Will Peter ONeill sell the birth place of the Melanesian nations- the heart and soul of Melanesia, to the Australians for personal economic and political gain?
5. Does Peter ONeill have the Leadership skill to plot a new and unique course of Melanesian Leadership for PNG to take the lead in the Pacific among our Melanesian and Polynesian brothers and sisters?
6. Has Peter ONeill continued to run the country as a personal bank account from which he and his cronnies like the Constantinous, Cragnolinis, Ben Micah (and his Russian Mafia around him) would have free reign over all business deals to the disadvantage of the other Papua New Guineans? What about the government PIP and major Roads budgets and the NEC awarding of these contracts to a few select group with direct kickback links to the PM himself? Im talking about Global, Hebou, Dekenai and that Indian Group Essar and I am talking about Kina Billions!
I will allow the readers to draw their own conclusions, as I believe Papua New Guineans are not that unintelligent to read and see for themselves what is really going on after observing over 24 months of performance.
Perhaps young people who wrote or blogged incessantly against other former Prime Ministers ought to eat their hats! The incumbent beats all previous Prime Ministers hands down in terms of building personal wealth and business-empire using the State and the Office of Prime Minister. Nothing gets past ONeill these days where ONeill does not dip his finger in, and he knows how to do it so well.
Recent decisions Peter ONeill made unilaterally like the ushering of the Australian ECP Program back into PNG (after the Supreme Court threw it out in 2004 for being unconstitutional) throws a lot of doubt on Peter ONeill and his Leadership capability as a Melanesian Leader of any significance in the Pacific at this juncture in history.
The real question is: Why are we two years on still asking these questions of this man?
The other hot question that everybody seem to be avoiding is whether the current ONeill- Dion Government is legitimate, or at all? This begs the question as to whether the elections were legitimate. If the issue of the legitimacy of the impasse government is still before the Supreme Court, then irrespective of whether the Court ultimately finds for or against the ONeill government, the issue is whether the process of calling elections (involving NEC and Parliament) was legitimate?
There is a likely scenario that the elections were called by an illegitimate government, and therefore the current government may well be ill constituted and illegitimate.
The Agreements ONeill has been signing with Australia are clearly designed to deliver control of this country to Australia should there be political and constitutional turmoil. These agreements would also be illegitimate from the above perspective.
The third real question is, who designed the idea of impasse government, and who were the real technical advisors behind the events of 2nd of August 2011? The answer to this may reveal more than what we would like to take in for now.
For now, in the light of the Asylum deal and other Agreements ONeill has been binding the nation to, it is fair for any citizen to question who really ONeill works for and what is his reward.]