Eyes on speaker’s chair

National, Normal

The National, Friday 03rd August 2012

WHEN parliament reconvenes, whether today depending on the outcome of a judge’s ruling, or next week when the final five outstanding writs are returned, all eyes will be on the speaker’s empty chair for it is the key to the formation of the ninth government of Papua New Guinea.
Justice Colin Makail was to make a ruling this morning on an urgent application from NCD Governor Powes Parkop, outgoing Western Highlands governor Tom Olga and re-elected Bulolo MP Sam Basil to stop parliament from convening until all writs of the
general election are returned next Wednesday.
The business of electing a speaker is pivotal to every other ensuing parliamentary business, including the election of a prime minister.
And PNC grand coalition leader Peter O’Neill, who had been invited to form the next government, is playing very close to his chest the identity of the next speaker of the House.
The one who will hold the speaker’s mace may have already been decided at the coalition’s camp in Alotau; more likely though, only O’Neill and
a few close confidantes know who it will be.
All through yesterday, it remained a closely-guarded secret.
“To be honest, we all don’t know yet (who the speaker will be),” one senior PNC coalition member texted in reply to the question yesterday afternoon on arrival from Alotau.
Two names stand out, both from PNC – MP-elect for Alotau Charles Abel and MP-elect for Rigo Ano Pala.
Abel’s appeal lies in his eloquence and youthfulness but Pala’s extensive experience of parliamentary procedures and administration from his days as one of the House’s longest serving clerks should tip the scales in his favour.
But to pull this off in a coalition as large and diverse as the one he leads, O’Neill needs a prominent partner as his deputy if he wants to lead the country for a full five-year term.
It is almost certain that O’Neill will solicit the support of the leader of the next largest coalition partner, T.H.E Party’s Don Pomb Polye by making him his deputy.
As keen political observers will remember, that will be “pay-back” for Polye’s decisive move to cross the floor with 25 National Alliance members on Aug 2 last year that installed O’Neill as prime minister.