It was a hectic day for Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister on Wednesday as the coalition worked to consolidate its numbers.
Mr. O’Neill spent part of the morning in Port Moresby. Then at 10am, he arrived in Lae on the Kumul and was taken by helicopter from Nadzab airport to Nawaeb District.
As political watchers tried to make sense of the numbers, Bulolo MP and Finance Minister, Sam Basil, led a small entourage of Pangu MPs who welcomed the Prime Minster and PNC Party leader. It was a small event – the launch of a five-year district plan, and the opening of a classroom funded by the Australian Government.
While the focus was on the projects being opened, Mr. O’Neill used the occasion to talk about the vote of no confidence expected in a few days time.
“Yes. It is true that we have MPs who have left. They have their own aspirations. We hold no grudges,”
In the evening, the PNC Party held urgent a caucus meeting. It later announced the support of 38 members and said they were ready for the vote of no confidence motion. The Prime Minister, then released a statement in which he focused on the government’s achievements, and dismissed the Opposition’s attempts to topple him.
“The last time a vote was attempted in 2016, the small group who supported the vote were defeated 85 votes to 21.
“In the coming years we will see the start of the construction phase of the Papua LNG project, that will create more than ten thousand jobs, and thousands more in related support to the project.
“We will see the increase in the number of people in remote and rural areas who are connected to electricity, and that will increase to 70 per cent coverage of our population by 2030.
“Soon we will connect the new undersea cable that will make Internet cheaper and faster and more accessible to millions of people across our country.”
While the Papua LNG project has been named a major point of contention between Peter O’Neill and his coalition members, the other points mentioned are, for now, the least of concerns for dissatisfied MPs.
As a block, Morobe has against taken center stage yet again. Earlier this week, Sam Basil announced that all 15 Pangu MPs would resign from the party and remain in the government coalition – an important statement which led into the welcome of the PM to Nawaeb.
Pangu is an important player, or at least its members, will be a vital part of the fluid jigsaw puzzle of PNG politics.
William Duma’s United Resource Party has said very little. In fact, Western Highlands MPs who form a large block on their own, have remained under the radar.