Peter will be judged by O’Neill

Editorial, Normal

The National, Friday July 26th, 2013

 PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has been in power now for two years and looks set for the next four years and beyond, if necessary.

He has the numbers in his own party to maintain leadership in the government coalition. 

He has the support of his coalition partners in government.

He has the numbers in Par­liament to be able to push through any policy or programme he so pleases.

He has the support of the business community who like nothing better than stability.

Most importantly, he has the support of the population at present and that speaks volumes.

At this juncture, only Pe­ter O’Neill can destroy O’Neill.

Only the programmes and policies he initiates, the laws and agreements he signs in­to effect, and the decisions he makes will determine whether he enjoys the majority and the support he seems to have shored up on all fronts.

Here we walk him down memory lane to take a good hard look at what caused the downfall of another robust and majority government, which enjoyed two unprecedented terms in political po­wer to suddenly crash overnight.

In his own words, just 60 days after he stormed to power, he made the following remarks to justify the actions by Parliament.

“We changed the Somare-led government on August 2 this year because it needed to be changed. That government lost focus on assertive and decisive political and government leadership. 

“Worse, it lost focus on the nation’s budgeted national development and public investment programmes. 

“Corruption and misappropriation of hundreds of millions of kina for budgeted national development and public investment programmes became the order of the day. 

“The government of Pa­pua New Guinea had effectively been ‘hijacked’ by this a small group of  ministers, who used and abused the serious illness of the then Prime Minister to subvert the parliamentary and cabinet processes and abuse public funds and property.

“Under our system of government, Prime Ministers are chosen and removed by the National Parliament. Seventy Members from both sides of the political divide in Papua New Guinea’s 109-Member Parliament could not have been wrong when they overwhelmingly voted to ‘correct a correctable’ political and government leadership impasse in our country.

“The process is being tes­ted in the courts. We uphold the rule of law and we respect our legal, and our constitutional processes.”

That process found the change wanting. The courts held that the actions by O’Neill were in violation of the Constitution.

Then O’Neill made the promises. Again, he will be judged by his own words.

“We will offer free education to grade 10. We will subsidise 75 per cent of tuition for students up to grade 12. We will put tertiary students on national scholarship and reintroduce student allowance.

“We will fix the major highways of our country, in­­cluding the Highlands High­way, the Buluminski, the Hiritano and Magi and the Madang highways. We will connect East to West New Britain and Southern Highlands to Gulf and open a third access from the highlands to the coast.

“Our economy needs to continue to grow and this can only be achieved by en­couraging growth of the private sector together with improving government’s ab­ility to do business. These will create more opportunities for our people to be meaningfully employed.

“We are committed to delivering universal education to our citizens by ensuring that we pick up the school fees bill for our long suffering parents and we continue to build capacity and world class curriculum for students to learn and live.

“We will focus on delivering better health care for our people by improving existing facilities including re-equipping of hospitals, establishing six referral hospitals in the country and centralising the process of purchase and supply of medicines throughout country.

“We are committed in improving the maintenance of our security forces in the country by investing in the welfare of our personnel, rebuilding the barracks, instilling more training and discipline, and re-equipping all our forces.

“We are committed to the maintenance of infrastructure, key highways, ports and airports.”