The National –Monday, January 10, 2011
TOMORROW, nominations will officially open for the post of governor-general.
Following that, there will be a 10-day period of intense lobbying before the elections, by exhaustive secret ballot, in parliament to determine who the representative of the head of state of PNG will be.
To our knowledge, eight names have been bandied around as candidates for the post.
Immediate past governor-general Sir Paulias Matane has, to our knowledge, not indicated publicly whether or not he is going to put up his hand again for the post.
It is likely something of that sort might have been discussed privately when the acting prime minister visited him two weeks back with the new Attorney-General, Sir Arnold Amet.
Whether or not he becomes the government’s candidate again is hard to determine as a sitting member and Minister for Higher Education, Michael Ogio, has put up his hand for the post too.
Sir Paulias availed himself a second time when he was selected by parliament by a three-quarter majority to offer his candidacy for the office a second time.
Unfortunately, parliament erred by taking that particular vote for his eligibility as the final vote to have him installed, resulting in that election being nullified by the Supreme Court.
If he were to offer himself for election this time around, would he be availing himself a third time? If he were deemed to be doing so, it would clearly be illegal as the constitution specifically states that a person may not offer himself for election to the office of governor-general a third time.
It is a matter of legal interpretation, but the question does pose itself and, so long as it does, it would be a major embarrassment to parliament if he were to be re-elected. Time for Sir Paulias to do the decent thing, and say “no”.
He has served with distinction for six years and that record has been marred by parliament’s over zealousness.
The other candidates, whose names have been bandied about in the media, are the former three who went to court: Sir Makena Geno, Sir Pato Kakaraya and Ronald Rimbao. New names which have been mentioned are former cabinet secretary Winnie Kiap, veteran broadcaster Justin Kili and former member for Kainantu Avusi Tanao.
Sir Pato and Rimbao are both from Wapenamanda in Enga, the same district as the chief justice. With the acting prime minister also from Enga and, in a country where regional balance often dictates politics, it is going to be an uphill battle. Still, it must be said that in a fairer world where such considerations did not matter, their rights to stand for public office and, particularly this post, is undiminished regardless of where they come from.
For the same reason, Kili and Ogio, who both hail from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, will split votes. If one were to stand down, or did not get the required 15 signatures of MPs, then the remaining one has a very strong case in that parliament is quite conscious that Bougainville faces a referendum next year to have the people decide whether or not to remain a part of PNG or become independent.
The remaining two are Tanao, a soft spoken politician, who has served his people with distinction and who is now in private life.
Finally, Kiap brings to this contest a fresh perspective not only as a woman candidate but as the only other person with intimate knowledge of the position.
As cabinet secretary for 10 years, between 1998 and 2008, she has prepared all the paperwork that has required the governor-general’s signature and has represented the state to Buckingham Palace a number of times.
She brings with her an impeccable professional record which ministers, in at least three administrations, will attest to.
It would be a be a fitting tribute by parliament to the women folk of this country who, it would appear, are sure to miss out on the promised reserved seats by parliament because time is too limited and there are just far too much to do between May this year and the elections.
Amet’s comments must be noted. He said that candidates must be chosen; they must not put up their hands themselves.
He said it would demean the high office of Her Majesty’s representative if this were so.
To our knowledge, the only person to have been approached by a number of people and asked if she could consider the post is Kiap.