BY JEFFREY ELAPA
THE recent political power play has set history in the country when many things unfolded.
Over the five week of horse trading, several political camps were created and members of Parliament were seen moving and jumping camp, in the name of power play.
However on May 29, then Prime Minister Peter O’Neill dropped a bombshell when he announced his resignation which was accepted by the Governor General Sir Bob Dadae who advised Speaker Job Pomat at around 10.45am at his parliament office.
Following the resignation, 28 members of the Laguna team led by James Marape broke ranks and moved over to the Grand Papua Hotel.
At 3.15pm Marape, O’Neill, Sir Julius Chan and Sam Basil led the 32 MPs into the Crown Hotel bringing the number to 76 MPs.
On Thursday, May 31 at around 9.50am the Government ream arrived in six buses while the Opposition arrived at 9.30am.
Former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill took his chair in the front at 9.39 am while Marape took his chair next to the Deputy Prime Minister at 10.30am after talking to the Speaker in his office before parliament resumed.
At 10.38am, Speaker Job Pomat walked into the chamber, led by the mace and started the session and asked the Member for Mul-Baiyer Koi Traipe to say prayers.
At 10.45am, the Speaker asked for nominations and Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas nominated and moved that James Marape be the Prime Minister and the Governor of Manus Charlie Benjamin seconded the motion.
Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch in a surprising and unprecedented move, nominated the Member for Ialibu-Pangia and the sitting Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and that was seconded by Belden Namah and Peter O’Neill accepted it.
When the Speaker asked for other nominations, Member for Rabaul Dr Allan Marat nominated former Prime Minister and Member for Moresby Northwest Sir Mekere Morauta and was seconded by Donald James, the Member for North Fly.
The Nominations was closed by Imbongu MP, Pila Niningi and seconded by Southern Highlands Governor William Powi.
However O’Neill withdrew his nomination later.
An open ballot was taken and 101 MPs including Leader of Opposition Patrick Pruaitch voted for Marape. A notable absentee was Madang MP Bryan Kramer who abstained from voting.
Marape was declared at 11.13am after winning 101 votes against Sir Mekere’s eight.
The Speaker then suspended Parliament for the newly-elected Prime Minister to go to Government House to be sworn in.
Marape and his delegation returned from Government House at 12.30pm through the ceremonial entrance and walked into the Parliament where he shook hands with and thanked his colleagues before taking his seat in the front as the Prime Minister at 12.42pm and made his maiden statement.
He thanked everyone who was behind him through thick and thin throughout the five weeks period and also the MPs for electing him as the eighth chief executive of the country.
He undertook to reviewing especially the resource sector laws in the country and empower the citizens, and “take back PNG” to enable economic independence.
Tussle between equals
During the occasion Southern Highlands Governor William Powi who supported Marape’s rise to the top, commended both Marape and O’Neill for playing the political game as equals and ensuring a smooth transition.
“Marape and O’Neill, the captains of the political game were from the same political party, they were both from the same province until 2012 and they are good friends but what has surprised many of us, is when it comes to how best we can serve our people, the two differed in many respects,” Powi said.
Marape, the son of a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, kept to his promise to his people of Tari-Pori that if the Government did not seal the Highlands Highway from Mendi to Hela and all the way to Komo and Kopiago and into the Strickland, he would leave the Government. The road was not sealed so he left the government that failed to delivery that economic lifeline to his electorate.
He surrendered his ministry and privileges for the sake of his people when he resigned and walked out and lived up to his words to his people.
“Marape, you have proven to your people that you are a man of your word. Leaders in this honourable house can take comfort knowing that they now have a Prime Minister who can keep his words, replacing a very talented, practical, and visionary Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill,” the Southern Highlands governor said.
“What surprised me is the loving and forgiving heart of our outgoing Prime Minister. It’s like the biblical story of the prodigal son, Marape returned and O’Neill received him with a warm open heart. I’m humbled. You have demonstrated great leadership of reconciliation, restoration and respect. This is a legacy that will be left behind for other to tell. We have lived to witness the living principles of the living God in this chamber is alive in this very act of forgiveness and reconciliation,” Powi said.
Southern Highland (then inclusive of today’s Hela) became the first oil producing province since 1992 and Hides gas became the first gas producing field in the country while Kutubu became the first oilfield and Gobe, Moran, South East Mananda were added later.
Then came the PNG LNG project; with hype and fanfare, the project was developed, creating myopic expectations of riches and wealth and transformation of the last province in the country to become the first. That did not happenand the cargo cult culture and free Government handout mentality cropped up.
Managing what can sometimes be unrealistic hope from a community coming out of the Stone Age into today’s information age can be a formidable task, even to the battled-hardened and tested politician. It is simply difficult.
Powi said: “Random and sporadic tribal fights in the Tari valley or political chaos and confusion in the SHP, spring from this sort of socio-economic background. Sometimes we are criticised, ashamed, laughed at and mocked.
“From this back ground, and when we had the first Prime Minister, we had the expectation that at least we would complete sealing the highways from Mendi to Tari, and on to Komo and Koroba-Kopiago. It was hoped that we would fulfil some of the promises made to our people under the oil and gas agreements.
“We said we would provide electricity from Mendi to Tari. Yet, Hides has hidden its electricity, bypassing the Hela people who are living in darkness. People of Kutubu have kept electricity on the oil fields, leaving the rest of Kutubu in the dark. The big trucks travelling the highlands highway to see these projects areas give us potholes and damage bridges. The pain and suffering of our people increases.
“It is this battle between contrasting social backgrounds that perhaps contributed to divide the two sons of Southern Highlands.
“The experience and the battle of Hela and Southern Highlands – poverty in the midst of world-class oil and gas project developments, it is the same battle and experiences of other parts of the country too.
“Refined by the crucible of this battle of hardship, pain and travail, combined with the heart of a shepherd, I believe Marape will lead the country well and hear the cries of our people.
“I believe you will allow the lesson of life to match and hear the cries of our people. I ask you to hear the voices of the people through their elected representatives on both sides of this house. Irrespective of our sitting arrangements, political affiliations, and social and cultural differences, I trust that you will hear the cries through their representatives for a fair, honest and transparent manner,” he said.
Powi said what O’Neill did on Wednesday to resign and to withdraw the motions on Thursday was recorded in the political annals of PNG as the first honourable and noblest act for him to take to preserve the unity and integrity of our young democratic nation.
“O’Neill’s actions should lay the foundation for current and future leaders to follow. When the Prime Minister fails to keep the confidence and trust of the leaders in the ruling party, this humblest act set you apart. You are the first Prime Minister to resign, it proves that you are not here for name, fame and power but for the people,” Powi said.
Call for unity
He called on Marape to call for national unity by giving confidence and comfort to the people of PNG through their elected representatives.
He said that unity could be achieved through the allocation of ministries representing various parts of the country, irrespective of party affiliations, party size or other factors.
“The Laguna camp, the Grand Papua Camp, the Crown Camp and all other camps must be united.
“I call upon the Prime Minister-elect to assemble a pool of local talents, technical expertise and national intellectuals from every field, every specialty and every persuasion, irrespective of political, regional or institutional difference to review our laws, economic policies, administrative structures and governance practices to help the Government design and develop a home-gown pathway to economic self-reliance.
“We must promote national unity through reconciliation, respect and caring and sharing through the Melanesian way,” Powi said.