SOMETHING is going on within the ranks of the ruling National Alliance party.
Following the expulsion and reinstatement three days later of National Planning and Monitoring Minister Paul Tiensten by his New Guinea Islands NA branch last month, the infection seems to be spreading.
Last Thursday, the Bougainville branch of the NA met and decided unanimously to expel Fidelis Semoso, who was seen as the chief instigator of the move to expel Mr Tiensten.
Also last week, the Eastern Highlands branch, meeting in Goroka, decided to expel the province’s only NA parliamentarian.
Mr Tiensten was not merely a member of the party. He was the deputy leader representing the region and under the party constitution a serious player – one of four regional deputies – in the leadership stakes where Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s job as NA’s parliamentary leader to become available.
Mr Tiensten’s removal and reinstatement, then, cannot just be taken as mere sectional or regional politics.
It all comes back to the centre, to the source of all power – to the national executive of the party and to the party leader himself.
This weekend, a group of people purporting to be the NA’s Eastern Highlands branch executives sacked the NA’s only Parliamentarian from the province, Lufa MP and Vice-Health Minister Yawa Silupa.
He has been given 14 days to show cause why he should remain a member of the party, a charge Mr Silupa claims is spurious and the work of a group of people who are no longer party executives.
A second resolution sets February as the date for a meeting of the party executives to confer at Lutheran Conference Centre in North Goroka to discuss the response from the minister.
The letter is allegedly signed by Auwo Ketauwo as chairman and foundation member, Kempri Tapao as deputy chairman, Steven Yanopa, Rachel Karre, Philip Stagg, Pastor Mathew Dick and Alice Koito.
We are unable to confirm whether or not the signatories and names are indeed the persons named and further if they do confirm, then whether or not they remain members of NA.
Mr Silupa purports that they are not.
In both the earlier Tiensten furor and this recent case, the national executive remains tight lipped as does the NA leader.
So far as we can tell, a provincial or regional party branch may expel an executive or an MP from the branch and may recommend that expulsion from the party in the case of an MP to the national executive of the party.
Section 62 of the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates allows for such expulsion to be conducted from a registered political party.
Section 62 (1) states that a registered political party may, in accordance with its constitution, expel from the party a member of the party (including a member who is a Member of the Parliament) on grounds specified in the constitution of the party.
A person so expelled may join another registered political party or remain independent from any political party.
It would appear to us that these seemingly isolated and regional political bickering might be part of a far deeper and far more coordinated political effort that is national in scope.
Since the Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates is far too strong and too specific in its provisions for wholesale and voluntary breakaway to have any meaning, this other way might be a clever way to get at members.
The Organic Law has certainly vested much power in the executives, both national and provincial, of political parties.
Originally intended to take the power game away from individual politicians, it might become the weakest spot in the law for manipulation.
Then again we might be reading too much into this but in the deafening silence of political moves of this nature, we, like all other reasonable people, are free to make reasonable assumptions which this is.
It is particularly relevant when leadership of the NA is talked about openly and particularly when the Opposition’s motion of no-confidence in the Government remains yet a property of the Parliament to be tabled at the Speaker’s leisure.