The National, Tuesday July 24th, 2012
YET another two better known politicians bowed out of parliament at the weekend as new blood started to flow into the country’s leadership.
Lae veteran Bart Philemon and National Alliance party strongman Timothy Bonga followed Arthur Somare out of parliament and, like Somare, both were gracious in defeat.
Bonga congratulated his successor and new Nawaeb MP Gisuwat Siniwin and pledged to support him.
After 20 years as MP, Philemon was eliminated on Sunday.
His loss was victory for women in this country as the only female candidate for the seat, Loujaya Toni, won with an absolute majority (7,364 votes).
Businessman Fred Wak managed 5,842 votes.
Bonga thanked the people of Nawaeb, his family and supporters for their support and confidence in his leadership over the past five years. He finished third behind runner-up Kennedy Wenge.
Looking like a seasoned politician, he was relaxed and was comforting a few dejected supporters after declaration last Friday.
He also extended his support for Siniwin and promised to work with him.
“Siniwin is a raw politician going into a big pool of national leaders and there are big challenges ahead. I am there for him for the sake of the people of Nawaeb,” Bonga said.
Despite his shock defeat, and another major blow to the NA party, the senior statesman and former speaker, who had a stint as acting governor-general, has set his sights on continuing at some capacity in the political circle and government ranks.
“I am a politician, politics is my game. I am down but not out. I will be back stronger in 2017,” he declared.
“I won’t dispute my loss despite some highly suspicious activities, which included unscheduled voting on Sunday.”
Siniwin, among the five victorious People’s National Congress Party candidates in Morobe, is former principal of Bumayong Lutheran Secondary School.
He polled 6,045 votes to beat Wenge, who managed 5,613.
Meanwhile in Lae open, Philemon praised Toni for her exceptional effort in beating a field of 30 male candidates for the Lae open seat.
“Obviously Lae voters must have seen some good qualities in her that I lack.
“She will be a very good role model for other aspiring women politicians if they approach campaigning the way she did,” Philemon said.
He said he encouraged the new MP to work with the private sector as they were equal partners with the government in development efforts and were the engine room for job creation.
He also encouraged her to join the O’Neill-led camp.
“My party (New Generation) has one successful candidate so far and we hope for two more in Okapa and Goroka in the Eastern Highlands to fulfil our commitment to support O’Neill for the prime minister’s post,” Philemon said.
Asked whether a voter registration debacle had contributed to his loss, Philemon said he would have pursued the matter had he won.
But he said there had to be an explanation why 194 voters in his Butibum village registered on the 2007 roll had their names omitted this year and why 119 first-time voters who filled forms to register missed out on the updated roll.
“As voters have decided an early retirement for me, I accept and will consider options and offers from the private sector,” he said.