The National, Wednesday July 1st, 2012
COMMENTARY by CLEMENT KAUPA
PNG Party leader Belden Namah is employing his brand of political brinksmanship by dangling the ultimate bait – the prime minister’s seat – as he tries to engineer a come-from-behind win in the race to form the next government.
“Whether I am prime minister or somebody else is prime minister, we are going to form the next government on the floor of parliament,” he declared enticingly on arrival at Tokua Airport in Rabaul on Monday.
The bait was cast into what he describes as “a very small pond occupied by too many big fish” that is the grand People’s National Congress-led coalition camp in Alotau, Milne Bay.
Namah, who is holding his camp at Rapopo Plantation Resort in East New Britain is vigorously casting for not just big fish, but rather any fish, in the PNC pond.
It might not be fishing season yet in Milne Bay, or his net came up empty, so Namah apparently flew to Goroka yesterday to try to fish the Kotuni fish farm where a number of juicy independent trouts are said to be residing.
They include Morobe Governor Kelly Naru, Northern Governor Gary Juffa and Chimbu and EHP independents.
But even then, Peter O’Neill’s PNC party-led coalition camp at Alotau is way ahead.
The tally notched on the victory pole at the gate is at 72 and expected to reach higher by today, the deadline for the return of writs to governor-general.
That is way over the qualifying total of 56 for the election of a prime minister on the floor of parliament.
Incidentally, that is where Namah plans on outsmarting the PNC coalition in the numbers game.
But with his camp in Kokopo shrouded under a blanket of smoke and playing vague on its coalition partners and numbers, Namah would need more than mere words to move the numbers on the floor.
He has fewer numbers on his side and declining public opinion to contend with.
He also has to deal with the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties (OLIPPAC) which prevents him from any 11th-hour manoeuvre to seize power.
Under this law, MPs will vote exclusively on party lines and independent MPs will not be involved in the formation of government until the election of the speaker.
The body responsible for the upkeep of OLIPPAC, the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates Commission, is firm on enforcing these provisions even to the extent of “deregistering” offending political parties and “fining” and “imprisoning” offending MPs.
According to the commission’s acting registrar, Dr Alphonse Gelu, some provisions of the OLIPPAC pertaining to movements and voting behaviour of MPs were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2010, but other sections dealing with the integrity of political party systems are still intact and will be enforced vigorously.
This appears to leave Namah very little room to move, considering the strength of PNC and its coalition partners while the number of undeclared seats quickly dwindled to nine as of yesterday.
Meantime, a coalition government of grand proportions is anticipated when Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio invites Peter O’Neill to Government House.
O’Neill is expecting the invitation and has urged his discarded deputy Namah and his camp to occupy the Opposition benches.
“You make your bed there, you sleep in it,” O’Neill had said of Namah, effectively ending any speculation that there is hope for reconciliation.