No smooth sailing from here


THE election of the speaker and the prime minister in Parliament yesterday effectively concluded the process of the 2017 general election.
Although counting for the remaining five seats is yet to be completed, the results will be of no consequence now as far as which political group forms the government.
Yesterday’s turn of events in Parliament points to a real testing time for PNG’s democracy. But truth be told, the near-collapse of parliamentary decorum and the lengthy delay to the start of the session, not to mention the rather “un-honourable” behaviour displayed towards the country’s chief justice, were to be expected.
These, and the expected high number of election petitions to be brought to the court of disputed returns, seem only to affirm the views of some citizens that the 2017 election had been chaotic, to say the least.
Disputed final tallies and double declarations for electorates were bound to create a lot of problems – as seen yesterday morning in Parliament.
But as has happened in previous parliaments, the people have spoken and Peter O’Neill has been elected prime minister – for a second term.
Of course his election and that of a few other MPs will be questioned in the court of disputed returns later on.
But in the interest of the country, the most sensible thing for both sides of the house to do following yesterday’s rather chaotic start is to allow the Government and Parliament to function as they are expected to.
As long as the country has a vibrant and impartial judiciary still maintaining our democracy, there is an obvious recourse for those aggrieved by the election results, however long the process might take to deliver justice.
For now however, it is up to each of the elected MPs to uphold the principles of the democracy they have sworn to uphold as the representatives of the people.
We appeal to the MPs therefore, that despite their differences, they have the interest of the country to protect and demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are still an operating democracy.
Perhaps a positive to be drawn from how events unfolded yesterday is that if there are no floor-crossings as we have seen so many times in the past parliament, our democracy will have a credible opposition that will be quite capable of holding the executive government in check.
A strong opposition is what this nation badly needs.
It was lacking for some time after the 2012 election and the formation of the O’Neill-led Government. There was a gradual departure of MPs from the Opposition to the Government.
The electorate has heard loud and clear the campaign rhetoric and how the country’s economy was tottering towards collapse under the now re-elected regime.
The campaign speeches still ring clear in the minds of voters around the country and some would have been expecting a different result yesterday.
But from the beginning of the setting up of the two camps in Alotau and Kokopo, the result was becoming apparent.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday extended the olive branch across the floor in a national unity message which should be seriously taken up by all MPs.
He promised all that his government “won’t be discouraging the views that are different to ours”.
“We want to encourage debate that will continue to unite our Nation.
“We will be a Government that listens more, talks less and works harder at every opportunity. We will be a Government that learns from its mistakes.”
And if he keeps his word, the next five years will be good for nation building and increased prosperity.
One thing he can do to deflect the mounting criticisms against his regime over the past five years and more is to invest in and empower State institutions and remove any shade of interference in their functions.
He needs to strengthen the parliamentary committees, giving them teeth to hold the executive government in check.
The business community will also be keenly following how the new government restores confidence and revive the ailing economy.
It is not going to be an easy task and the government knows that. O’Neill will need all hands on deck, including those from the opposite camp who represent the people in 46 electorates around the nation.
They all need to be served.

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