PNG PM's move against former ally seen as undemocratic
A widening division between Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister and the leader of one of his government's main coalition partners deteriorates into an issue over seating in parliament.
A widening division between Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister and the leader of one of his coalition partners has deteriorated into an issue over seating in parliament.
Parliament resumed on Tuesday with two empty seats on the government front bench.
The seats were formerly occupied by the Triumph Heritage and Empowerment Party leader Don Polye and William Duma, the leader of the United Resources Party who were both absent from parliament.
Despite the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill having sacked Mr Polye as Treasurer and Mr Duma as Minister for Petroleum and Energy about two months ago, the parties of both MPs have remained in the government.
But as Johnny Blades reports, while Mr Duma remains in the mix, Don Polye's been given his marching orders by the government.
Don Polye has been waging a very public war of words against Peter O'Neill's policies over recent weeks. Fed up with the dissent, Mr O'Neill's People's National Congress decided at its weekly caucus on Monday to have the Kandep MP moved to the opposition seats in Parliament while his THE party, the second biggest party, is free to remain with government. However, Mr Polye claims the move by the ruling party is a breach of the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates, or OLIPPAC, on parliament procedures.
DON POLYE: In my case, it's a Triumph Heritage and Empowerment Party resolution which determines where the party sits. And our now standing resolution of the Triumph Heritage and Empowerment Party is that the party sits in government but for sacked ministers and members of parliament like myself, we sit at the middle bench because that's where we are supposed to stay in terms of our party's resolution.
Unlike Don Polye, William Duma has remained tightlipped since his sacking. According to the President of the United Resources Party, Ken Yapane, their leader is still wanted in government.
KEN YAPANE: PM has told him not to attend parliament because if he attends, it doesn't look good him coming and sitting in the back benches. The Prime Minister has said we'll keep it vacant for him until such time as he is invited to come back. So we as a party, we believe him and we are keeping our options open.
Don Polye is urging the Speaker to allocate him a seat in the middle benches, saying he will boycott Parliament until this is done. In the middle, he would sit near the Governor of Oro province, Gary Juffa. Despite being a vocal critic of various government policies, Mr Juffa was among MPs who last year voted to extend the grace period for motions of no-confidence against governments from 18 to 30 months after an election.
GARY JUFFA: And the reason why I supported it was there needs to be some stability so that the government can be able to do what it needs to do, and when the OLIPPAC laws were.. they more or less took a beating and therefore members could move around, this was the only way to ensure some form of stability.
Don Polye says Peter O'Neill's move against him is an attempt to undermine smaller political parties.
DON POLYE: It destroys them. So you divide and rule; you take the leader of the party, the head, cut it off and throw away elsewhere; the others you divide and rule against them; and then you disintegrate and kill the party. Are we here to kill democracy?
Peter O'Neill's Government is big enough to retain a majority even if THE MPs were to defect with their leader. However it's expected that the lure of access to government resources may prove too strong for the party's MPs to voluntarily leave.
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