Thursday, 15 December 2011

Papua New Guinea-Strange goings on in paradise

Two prime ministers, two parliaments, two governors general and two police chiefs.

Yes that is the current political situation in Papua New Guinea,the Eastern part of the Island sits between the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean east of Indonesia.

It boasts one of the most diverse populations on Earth, with more than 850 indigenous languages It is one of the Earth's least explored terrains and biologists believe many plant and animal species in the rugged interior remain to be discovered.

However the paradise sits on the brink of a political storm,facing its worst constitutional crisis since 1975, and as a member of the Commonwealth the Queen could unwittingly be dragged in to break the deadlock.

The dispute is a battle over two political giants.76-year-old Sir Michael Somare who was removed from office while getting medical treatment outside the country by his rival Peter O'Neill.

On Monday,Monday,its Supreme Court ruled that O'Neill's election by parliament in August was unconstitutional and said Somare should be reinstated as prime minister.

However lawmakers loyal to Peter O'Neill have passed retroactive legislation recognizing him as leader.

Now O'Neill has ordered police to take control of government offices, including the prime minister's office, where Somare and his followers were working.

The governor general and representative of the Queen,Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio swore in Somare's Cabinet,a move that preticipated the storming of the embassy by O'Neill's backers who later voted to suspend Ogio and replace him temporarily with Speaker Jeffery Nape.

Nape then swore O'Neill in as prime minister.Got it so far?

What lies behind the crisis is internal political wrangling?

Papua New Guinea's politics are highly competitive with most members elected on a personal and ethnic basis within their constituencies rather than as a result of party affiliation
During Somare's absence due to illness O'Neill served as works minister under acting prime minister Sam Abal.

In August 2011 he joined with opposition MPs to topple Abal,whilst Somare was recovering from heart surgery in Singapore.

Sir Michael then lost his seat in September for missing three sessions of parliament while he was in Singapore, but that has been challenged in the courts by Sir Michael's supporters, who say he only missed two session without leave and was granted permission to miss a May session.

The latest is that the standoff continues.The two attorney's general from the rival factions have taken part in a live debate with the pair agreed to look into the possibity of holding a meeting to resolve the crisis.

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