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BY ELIAS NANAU
The sleepy town of Vanimo is hosting a group of politicians led by local MP and Opposition Leader Belden Namah.
They are congregating there after a rousing welcome. They are there to essentially consolidate their numbers and overthrow Prime Minister James Marape’s 18 month old government through a motion of no confidence.
What has preceded the move of their camp to Vanimo was unprecedented in Papua New Guinea’s political history last Friday.
A parliament session of question time was going on with Deputy Speaker and Markham MP Koni Iguan chairing Parliament.
Iguan has since joined the opposition team who are now in Vanimo.
Parliament question time was on and it then became apparent that the sitting arrangement has changed with a horde of MP’s walking in and sat on the opposition side.
Belden Namah walked in at 11.09am.
Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil walked in later and took the Deputy Opposition Leaders seat-it was left vacant when everyone else walked in.
With their numbers swelling and they had the numbers on the floor- they were able to suspend standing orders and voted to change the composition of the committee who vets any motion of no confidence.
They then successfully adjourned Parliament to December 1.
Technically- this is a meeting day that falls after the 18 months grace period of November 30 and any motion against the government can be moved.
The opposition camp after calling press conferences and spoke about why they have defected from the government have now moved to Vanimo on a charted flight last Saturday.
People ask why Vanimo?
Vanimo and West Sepik province are perceived as a region devoid of development.
The town itself does not have most essential utility services of water, reliable power, sanitation and hotel foods do not have five star ratings.
It’s tourism sites are at infant stages if MP’s desire a relaxation tour.
But the place has some historical records of being a place where governments are formed.
The reign of Grace Chief Sir Michael Somare came to a halt and we saw the ascension of Peter O’Neill after MP’s congregated in Vanimo over a weekend in August 2011.
This time though it may be two weeks. We are not too sure about that.
In 2011, Hon Belden Namah then Opposition leader as well spoke to a few hundreds of people in front of the Dasi District Office in Vanimo that a government would change the following Tuesday.
He urged his people to listen to the radio, watch television and check the newspapers.
Sure enough, that following Tuesday, August 2, it happened.
This time, would it be spiritually telling that history will repeat itself?
But for Namah dubbed “Kwila bilong Sandaun” he has been the person who has orchestrated change of governments in 2011, 2019, and may be now 2020.
Is a three peat coming?
Frank as he has always been. He has called for Prime Minister to step down arguing that the Prime Minister doesn’t have the numbers to govern.
Commentators argue, comments by Namah asking Prime Ministers to resign were not new and they want critical justification.
Few in Namah’s team in the likes of Sam Basil, Puka Temu, Chris Haiveta, Charles Abel and former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill have spoken.
They were very concerned that there is a slide in our economy and it had drastic effects on the people.
“By allowing a record mine, when gold prices are high, when we are starving of income, when we are crying for jobs, subcontractors and thousands of people that rely on such projects, you must be responsible with your words, you must have a plan of action, you cannot shut projects down…real Papua New Guineans are suffering and struggling when you make such decisions,” Charles Abel said.
“We cannot just sit by and watch – stripping away the rights of the landowners and resource owners in the interest of State companies.”
“Trucks are not running anymore, thousands of workers in Lae have been laid off, carpenters have packed their tools and are turning to their gardens in order to survive and most businesses are starting to close up,” Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil said.
“Being the deputy prime minister is one of the highest paying salaries with a lot of perks and privileges. Let this serve as a reminder to the future politicians of PNG, that whenever you are comfortable within any arm of the government, first of all you must think about your country.”
One of their grievances against Prime Minister James Marape and this may be the last straw that irked and influence this mass defection-the awarding of K10.2 million to the Niugini BioMed for Covid-19 research.
Health Minister Puka Temu was dissatisfied that he was not consulted and many citizens perceived it as controversial.
Prime Minister James Marape remains unfazed despite the political instability.
He told a media conference that the opposition had the numbers on the floor when they moved to adjourn Parliament.
He would be decommissioning several ministers and appointed new ones to keep the government intact and he was adamant there will be MP’s crossing back to government before the next sitting.
Marape admitted he had huge support of more than 90 MPs when he was elected and it was challenging to make everyone happy but with the reduction, it may be a blessing in disguise for him to manage coalition parties.
While the political instability rages, the 2021 budget which is supposed to be passed this week has been delayed.
With the national budget now going to be delayed, the biggest concern for the public service will be the closure of accounts set for the 20th of this month.
Institute of National Affairs Executive Director Paul Barker told Post Courier that the Supply bill now will be very important to keep the state running.
“There is a standard procedures set out in the constitution which provides for a Supply Bill.
“This automatically provides a portion of the previous year’s budget to sustain basic budget operations, at least until such time a new Budget is tabled and passed,” Barker said.
Papua New Guinea politics has hypes, bitter moments and is sometimes fluid as far as friendship and number crunching of members movements go.
We await if PM James Marape will defeat the motion and if Vanimo holds some spell to form governments.