A couple of more phone calls and I need to make one correction and inject some more facts into the situation, as well as make some observations on the potential for damage to PNG by ill-informed half-baked reporting.
First the correction. The constitution does allow for a vote of no-confidence within 12 months of the election, provided that it is immediately followed by an election. It may well be that the current impasse is solved by just this approach. Somare does not have the numbers in parliament (the retrospective legislation mentioned in my previous post was passed yesterday 78 to 1 or 2) and an election is due in May next year. Given the nature of Papua, it takes 5 months to set up an election, so an immediate election would fall more or less on the due date.
The facts that need to be injected are that the PNG constitution is not like ours in that the Governor-General has no reserve powers and the parliament is paramount. That means that he is bound to follow the advice of parliament and has no basis for rejecting it. If parliament appoints O’Neill, then despite the High Court, he is bound to give effect to parliament’s will.
Now for the observations. Of all the foreign countries in the world New Guinea is the only one where the international media are likely to look to Australian journalists to give them a lead in how they cover it. PNG is the Pacific Rim country with the furthest to climb, and the last thing it needs is poor reporting that exaggerates the degree of sovereign risk inherent in investing in the country.
As the former colonial ruler of PNG Australia has history which means that we could be expected to understand the country better than most, and also that the people of PNG might have good reason to resent any undue intrusions, real or perceived, by us.
The current impasse is serious and it will become more serious if it’s not covered with accuracy and empathy by us.