By Peter Korugl

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 31, 2011) – When Papua New Guineans were told that the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare went to Singapore for his routine medical check up, no one was alarmed.

Sir Michael had done that many times before and had always come back home. No one had expected any worse.

Before Sir Michael left Papua New Guinea, he did something that he had never done before for his medical appointments. That is to appoint his Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal to act in his place while he was away. That decision should have sent the signal that Sir Michael was expecting some bad news.

It is apparent that everyone in the Government, his personal staff and his family, did not anticipate that the visit to his doctor would end up the way it did and that Sir Michael would be hospitalised for weeks in the Intensive Care Unit.

A few weeks later, at a function to welcome one of Air Niugini’s latest acquisitions, Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal dropped the bombshell.

He told a stunned audience that Sir Michael was going in for an operation. In fact, the exact words he used were that the PM was "going under the knife".

The news went out the next day and PNG was alarmed about their PM. Christians were asked to pray for him.

Papua New Guineans learnt that Sir Michael had to go in for a second operation when he developed complication from the first one. This is the eighth week, the PM has been hospitalised and there is no word from the Government or the family that he is coming home any time soon.

The lack of information has fuelled a lot of rumours about his condition.

Papua New Guineans are trying to come to grips that their PM has ended up in that condition in Singapore but what has been surprising most is that those in his Government were not prepared for what happened.

The health condition of the Prime Minister was an open secret in Government. Months before his visit to Singapore, Sir Michael was showing signs that he was not well.

Sources close to cabinet say Sir Michael would doze off during cabinet meetings and Sam Abal would take over. He had breathing problems when he climbed stairs and he sweated a lot.

The ministers, his personal staff and his family knew but they did not look after him well. Were they afraid of him to do anything?

"They pushed him to work, why, I don’t know. They have their own reasons but they should look after him well and they did not," a senior government official said.

At 75 years of age, the Grand Chief has undergone two critical heart surgeries, and is in the Intensive Care Unit in this hospital in Singapore. No one including Mr Abal and the doctors are giving the public any details about neither the heart operations nor his condition at present.That is not the only worry for Papua New Guineans.

Papua New Guineans are getting worried that with the PM absent from PNG, the Government he has left behind has lost its way. This is clearly reflected from what transpired in the last three weeks in Parliament. Members of the public are criticising the ability of the Government to handle important matters.

When parliament resumed on May 10, expectation was high among Papua New Guineans that the Members of Parliament will deal with some of the pressing legislations and issues confronting the country.

Among those on the notice paper for Parliament to deal with were enabling legislations for the Jiwaka and Hela provinces, the future of the regional seats, the reserved seats for women and many other bills. None of those Bills were entertained. The only government business that was dealt with was the European Trade Treaty that was ratified when tabled by the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Minister Don Polye.

It was a three weeks sessesion that delivered nothing substantial although the MPs took their sitting allowances. Who is to be blamed for this poor show by the Government?

Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal must take full responsibility for the performance of the Government and it seems, he is not doing that. The Parliament will meet again for three after the recess, then go for another two weeks break and come back for another three weeks season.This is to meet the constitutional requirement on the number of sitting days the Parliament has to meet.

Papua New Guineans expect better from their Government. Hopefully, it will use the two weeks break to analyse its own performance and come back better prepared to deal with those outstanding issues.

Papua New Guineans are watching and they are not impressed. And they do not like to be treated with contempt.

Sam Abal and his ministers must step up their act and assure the people that the National Alliance lead Government is still in control.This requires Abal to move quickly. He must firstly rebuild the NA party and take control of the Government. It would seem that his ministers are doing their own thing and forgetting the job on hand.

The lack of political direction has also affected the public service.

We are told that departmental heads are also running around doing their own things that operations of government have come to a complete standstill in Waigani. Is this true?

Mr Abal must make the call now or ship out. He must make way for someone who is not afraid to make decisions. Papua New Guinea has a life and its citizens deserve better from their Government.

Peter Korugl is Deputy Editor and News Director at the PNG Post-Courier.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment