PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Aug. 1, 2011) - In an unexpected move, Labour and Industrial Relations Minister Sani Rambi has blasted acting Prime Minister Sam Abal and Don Polye for "destroying" the National Alliance Highlands bloc in Government.

With 12 MPs in Government, the bloc was a force to be reckoned with until the past month. Yesterday, things came to a head. There is discontent and a growing fear among the members that the tussle for power between the two men will spill over into the coming general elections and they will pay the price.

We agree with Minister Rambi that like him, there are many Papua New Guineans out there who are also "pissed off and tired" about this whole saga. They want a solution to this problem and are looking forward to Polye and Abal to call the peace meeting.

But this is easily said than done. Who will be the first to offer an olive branch? Who will be the first to flutter the white flag? For Polye, he is not going to give in to Abal. We have to go back in time to understand what Polye is doing. In the 2002 national elections, it was Polye who recruited Abal, then a Peoples Democratic Party man, into the National Alliance Party. It was Polye who campaigned for him for the Wabag Open seat and got him elected. When the two men came into Government in 2002, Polye led the Highlands bloc as its leader and it was the same in the 2007 until April, when Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare replaced Polye as Deputy Prime Minister with Abal. He also took the Works portfolio away from him.

The Highlands NA bloc asked the PM to reconsider his decision but to no avail. At the beginning of May, Sir Michael appointed Abal as Acting PM and he went to Singapore. He had been away for nearly 12 weeks now and while he was away, Abal tried to take away the deputy NA Highlands leadership from Polye. It culminated in the sacking of Polye from Government to make him powerless.

We do not think Polye will forgive Abal. Not at all.

As for Abal, he is not going to give in to Polye as well. It is every politicians dream to become the Prime Minister for his country and for Abal, he is almost already there. As he explained in his statement last night, he wants to remain as acting PM until 2012. Politics is a funny animal, as those who play the game know this well. You have to play your cards right to get your way in politics and Abal reckons he has played his right to be where he is.

If the Prime Minister had a reason to demote Polye and appoint Abal to become Deputy Prime Minister and then acting PM, Sir Michael will have to tell his people but the son of this well respected Highlands leader has politics in his blood and he is doing everything to become the next Prime Minister. We do not expect to see Abal handing over this golden opportunity to someone else and just walk away. Not at all.

That is why Polye and Abal are hell bent on taking their fight to the very end, regardless of the consequences. We can understand why the NA executives want to remain loyal to Polye. The executives want to be with a man who has delivered for them, now that fresh elections are only 12 months away. They have the party’s interest and future at heart.

On the other hand, the parliamentary wing is with Mr Abal. Initially, when the row started, the NA Highlands MPs remained with Polye but then gradually switched sides. They did not explain why they signed their allegiance to Abal but the people would be keenly interested. The MPs would be stupid to pull out of Government 11 months before the elections. They would rather be where the power and resources are. And who can blame them.

So where to now? We see two options. One is for Abal or Polye to go to court to get a ruling on who is the deputy leader. The other is for the Grand Chief to come back and restore normalcy.

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