Caretaker PM O’Neill Rallies Support From PNG Leaders

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Caretaker PM O’Neill Rallies Support From PNG Leaders Somare, Chan and Wingti join forces with PNC Party

By Frank S. Kolma and Starza Paul

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 24, 2012) – Three former Papua New Guinea prime ministers, Sir Michael Somare, Sir Julius Chan and Paias Wingti, yesterday pledged support for caretaker Prime Minister and People’s National Congress (PNC) party leader Peter O’Neill to form the next government.

That was the announcement, but the moment belonged to Sir Michael and O’Neill who hugged and held hands – two men who claimed legitimacy to the office of the prime minister for six months and split political parties, the civil service, the judiciary and the military into two opposing spheres.

Hardly a word passed at the press conference about that period which history will remember kindly as the "political impasse" as the group talked of a new government of reconciliation, of hope and a return of integrity to government and parliament.

The move, which attracted a rush of numbers to the O’Neill camp by smaller parties and independents, was also described as a move to restore confidence to the people, of investors and the international community. Sir Julius Chan, who orchestrated the move, declared: "This is a memorable occasion in the history of this nation when such big power players, like the Grand Chief (Sir Michael Somare) and Paias Wingti, are here which will show the people of this nation that we, the experienced leaders, have the heart for the nation and its people. This is something you will never see anywhere in the world.

"I thank the Grand Chief for joining forces. He is above politics; he has got the interest of the people at heart."

Judging by those who turned up yesterday, the numbers in O’Neill’s camp swelled to 39 out of the 66 seats declared so far.

This included PNC’s 20 declared members, the People’s Progress Party’s six, Sir Michael’s National Alliance five and Wingti’s People’s Democratic Movement member for Middle Ramu Tommy Tomscoll.

Wingti, while leading in the Western Highlands, had not been declared.

Also leading but undeclared in the National Capital District regional seat is Powes Parkop, who was present and lent his two members to O’Neill.

Hela Governor and leader of the United People’s Assembly Anderson Agiru, who has one other member in Pomio MP Paul Tiensten, also attended the meeting.

Absent from the gathering and offering no commitment were Finance and Treasury Minister Don Polye and his Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party’s five members, Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and his three United Resources Party Members and Enga Governor Peter Ipatas’ People’s Party and his three MPs. The PNG Party has set up a separate camp in Kokopo, East New Britain, where it is wooing independents and smaller parties to put its leader Belden Namah as its choice for the top post.

Sir Michael received the highest accolade for joining O’Neill. He said: "I thank O’Neill for inviting me to this press conference. We do not want disruptions. I believe that by having me, Sir Julius and Wingti, you can rest assured that we will be able to provide services and give confidence to our people," Somare said. "We are seeing a new government in the making."

Wingti said the country needed to see integrity brought back to the institutions of state and for the rule of law. "We want to see parliament operate properly," he said. "We want to see things done properly and the laws followed."

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