PNG WAKES UP TO REALITY: SOMARE TO STEP DOWN

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 1, 2011) - Papua New Guineans are now certain that their beloved Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare will not return to office. The announcement by his son Arthur Somare that Sir Michael should not continue in politics because of his medical condition, confirms what everyone suspected all along. That is Sir Michael’s recovery will take quite some time and he may not be in good condition after three heart surgeries on the heart.

Yesterday, the National Executive Council (NEC) commenced the process, which should see Sir Michael move out of politics and into private life. Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal and Justice Minister and Attorney General Sir Arnold Amet took the media through the process involved in formalising the announcement by Mr Somare.

The process and procedures in short is like this. Cabinet will ask Professor Isi Kevau, the PM’s personal physician to provide a report on his condition. Based on that report, the NEC will advice the Head of State, who will then advice the PNG Medical Board to appoint two doctors to examine the PM and provide to him their full report. The Head of State will then present this report to the Speaker of Parliament to be tabled in Parliament and Parliament may advice the Head of State to remove the PM from office.

While the Constitution is specific on the number of days the doctors can take to get their reports to the Head of State, which is the Governor General, the Constitution does not give a specific time for the NEC, the Governor General and the Parliament to perform their functions in the whole process to arrive at a conclusion. Because of this, there is a real chance that this can take months or even a year.

We take note that Cabinet has initiated the first step to invoke Section 142 (5) (c) of the Constitution and Section 6 of the Prime Minister and National Executive Council Act.

For Mr Abal, the process that his Government has just initiated may soon end his reign as the Acting Prime Minister. When the process ends up in Parliament, men like Don Polye and William Duma will be there to make sure that he is removed. If this confrontation is to be avoided, this process is likely to be slowed down. Was it a mistake when Mr Abal and Sir Arnold said Parliament MAY advice the Head of State to remove the PM from office.

But we believe that Mr Abal will ensure that this business is brought to an end quickly. This is because he knows that he was mandated by one man and not by Parliament or the people to be Acting PM. If this matter is dragged over many months, he could be accused of deliberately doing this so he can continue to remain as Acting Prime Minister and enjoy the perks and privileges that go with the job.

On another matter, the Leadership Tribunal has been appointed to deal with the misconduct charges against the Minister for Public Enterprise Arthur Somare.

The tribunal members are Justice Salatiel Lenalia as Chairman and the members are Orim Karapo and Noreen Kenosa. These are very experienced and respected members of the judiciary and we know that they are very capable of discharging their duties competently.

The Tribunal is expected to convene any time now and when it does, it will decide if Mr Somare will be suspended while the tribunal carries out its investigation.

The Prime Minister’s case took only one week or even less for three foreign retired judges to conclude their findings. We wonder how long Mr Somare’s case will take.

It will be interesting to watch the manner in which the tribunal will be conducted and how fast it will take to make its decision and what kind of penalty – if any – will be dished out if he is found guilty.

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