TWO SOMARES IN PNG CABINET SURE TO RAISE EYEBROWS 

Commentary

By Frank Senge Kolma

Two Somares in Cabinet - Riveting stuff.

This is sure to cause some eyebrow raising and not a little murmuring on the political grape vines.

The fact that the senior Somare is off-loading a quite controversial and important portfolio in privatization (under whatever new name) onto junior will reveal the obvious that Sir Michael wants to keep the portfolio close to him.

The fact that Arthur Somare has also been given the additional post of information will also raise interesting questions, considering that Betha Somare, his sister is also the Prime Minister's Press Secretary.

To many political observers this will look like the nepotism that Sir Michael has vowed to the people at the polls he would fight hard to remove.

The move is too obvious and a quite unnecessary thorn in the side that the Prime Minister could do without at this time.

To me, here is something that reveals something of Sir Michael Somare the politician after 35 years in the PNG Parliament.

He has learnt over the years not to trust too many people in politics unless they are his own blood. This, of course, has nothing to do with excellent track record of Govenor Arthur Somare in East Sepik and his workaholic nature and the fact that he is as capable as any in the Government to hold the portfolio given him.

Sir Michael has a reason to be less trusting this time around. 

Ever since he has assumed the leadership of the Pangu Pati and helped the territories of Papua and New Guinea take the first tentative steps towards self government and Independence as a single nation, he has had horrendous fallouts with too many close friends, colleagues and senior staff members.

He was too trusting and grew too near to his colleagues and as a result has always got badly burnt when there was a falling out.

His Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Planning Commission, John Momis threatened secession in the first year after Independence in 1976 which almost dismantled the whole Independence exercise.

Sir Michael reluctantly agreed to re-introduce the provision for provincial government systems in PNG as a result of this political blackmail by his friend, at that time also a Catholic priest.

In 1979, he lost Government to another friend and his Deputy Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan in a motion of no confidence.

The biggest majority any political party returned after elections was in 1982 when the Pangu Pati returned over 50 MPs.

That majority was reduced to a point where the party lost Government within the life time of that term of Parliament by the actions of trusted lieutenants of Somare.

Deputy Prime Minister Paias Wingti broke up with 20 others in March 1985 led a motion of no confidence against Somare. Somare beat that one. Then, later that year other very close friends of Sir Michael in Sir Barry Holloway, Sir Anthony Siaguru, Mr Karl Stack and John Nilkare left to form their own party. The weakened Pangu then collapsed in a November 1985 motion of no confidence to Paias Wingti and Sir Julius Chan.

The biggest blow came when in May 1988, Sir Michael was confronted in his Parliament office by two people he would never have taught could do what they did. Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Sir Pita Lus approached him and with tears asked him to step down as leader of Pangu Pati. That was the wish, they informed him, of the caucus.

He refused. Within a few days, on May 20, Sir Michael was removed as leader of the party and Sir Rabbie was made leader.

When he still refused, the caucus sacked him from the Pati he had built since 1968. Only Sir Pita had been with the party longer.

Not long after there was a bitter feud over the Pati's business arm, Damai with the Somare family. 

By then young Arthur Somare was actively involved in negotiating on behalf of Damai to build the Somare Foundation Haus. 

Sir Michael went into a political wilderness and later emerged to very tentatively put together the National Alliance which he took successfully to the 2002 elections.

An experience of the type described here would have left an indelible impact upon anybody. 

So Sir Michael Somare's move from an entirely human stand point is entirely justified.

Unfortunately, whatever the rationale, such action will still be viewed with suspicion.

Such is politics and such is the rules of the public office adopted by the country Sir Michael has helped forge.

Is the inclusion of Arthur Somare in a ministry headed by his father and which sole responsibility for appointment rested with his father, in breach of the Leadership Code?

How do we balance the provisions of the Leadership Code with the rights of the people of Angoram Electorate to have their MP, in Cabinet?

Interesting questions, really, for the Ombudsman Commission to answer - if it is at all interested - since this has never happened before.

August 5, 2003

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

 

Frank Senge Kolma is Editor of the National

 

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