Best of friends taking too long

Editorial, Normal

The National, Thursday 02nd Febuary 2012

WILL Australia and New Zealand and all other nations which PNG calls its friends wait until it is down the tube before they lend a helping hand?
How much longer do they prefer to wait? More especially, how much more time does this nation have before something nastier than presented itself last Thursday at the PNG Defence Force headquarters turns up?
For, make no mistake, the political impasse in PNG will not simply go away if we ignore it long enough.
It simply will not because this is the kind of country we have. We are tribal. We are interconnected.
Both sides to this impasse have their families, tribes, regions, provinces and friends who will stick by them. The problem is festering and growing. It simply will not die a natural death.
Strong arm tactics, even if employed under the guise of upholding the law, will not help. Jailing members of one side or the other will not help because of this inter-connectedness in PNG
There is no time for politically correct sensitivities that might exist out there about this being an internal political problem and that any attempt to offer outside help would tantamount to interference.
This is sheer nonsense.
It is nonsense because this is more than just a political issue. It is more than just a Papua New Guinean issue.
Left to fester and to develop into socio-economic upheaval or a fully-fledged ethnic unrest, this will become Australia’s problem and New Zealand’s and, indeed, the whole Pacific region’s unrest.
What is developing has potential to become a regional security issue, not just for the citizens of this country.
With the general election a little more than 90 days away; with the massive proliferation of high-powered and illegal guns throughout the country and, particularly in the densely-populated and highly-volatile highlands region; with a police and defence forces and the civil service divided (regardless of what they claim publicly), two persons claiming to be the legitimate prime minister and with the usual volatile and unpredictable nature of all PNG elections, the 2012 general election
is a powder keg awaiting
its fuse to be lit.
And were that to happen, Australian security and economic interests will be impacted.
New Zealand interests will be impacted.
American and Chinese interests through the PNG LNG project and the Ramu nickel-cobalt mine will be impact. The interests of all other multinationals will be impacted.
The collapse of PNG, were that allowed to happen, will impact far more than Fiji because of its geographic proximity and importance to Asia and Australia and because of its increasing economic potential.
It is six months to the time Peter O’Neill illegally threw out the Somare regime.
It is six weeks now since the Dec 12 decision of the Supreme Court which restored Somare.
Yet, his claim to legitimacy has not garnered any support from parliament, nor from the civil service or from the people.
O’Neill, on the other hand, has mustered three quarter majority support of parliament to repeatedly thwart Somare. O’Neill has got himself re-elected by parliament. He has confirmed himself as prime minister in law.
He has not been challenged in court or on the floor of parliament for all that he has done.
He enjoys the support of the civil service and the people.
Yet, O’Neill too has not been able to dislodge Somare from power nor from his claims to legitimate government.
There is no time for prideful posturing and breast beating. There are greater interests at stake here, both within the country and outside.
It may have come time when a neutral body or bodies are called to adjudicate before this develops into something nobody would want to see.
This impasse must be resolved before PNG goes to the polls.
It is time Australia stops thinking this is PNG internal politics and moved openly to broker a solution.
And, when it does, its candidate for the job should be Kevin Rudd, Australia’s foreign minister and a dear friend of PNG.
Unfortunately, we do not know if the “friend” tag suits anymore since PNG seemed to be nowhere near his radar for the moment.