For six months, the Commonwealth country Papua New Guinea has been in a political crisis. This has culminated in a failed coup d’état by a small section of the army led by Colonel Yaura Sasa. This small island country has been independent since 1975 and in the past has been relatively stable so what led to the mutiny?
Due to ill health the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, via his wife announced his retirement as Prime Minister and from politics. He was the leader of PNG when it became independent of Australia and served four terms as Prime Minister. It took until second of August before the Speaker of the House, Jeffrey Nape, declared the position vacant and Peter O’Neill was elected by a majority of MPs. Next in the crisis was the PNG Supreme Court who reinstated Somare as PM stating that Parliament had acted illegally. Mr O’Neill then claimed that the majority of state institutions, the Civil Service, Police, Army and his fellow MPs supported him. A few days later Sir Michael Ogio, the Governor-General then endorsed Mr O’Neill. Approximately a month later Sir Michael and several of his supporters were ejected by MPs and despite an appeal the Deputy Speaker ordered him out of the chamber. Just over a week later Colonel Sasa led the mutiny and is now claiming it was ordered by Sir Michael saying he was “carrying out the government’s orders” as he arrived in court earlier. Colonel Sasa has now been charged with incitement to mutiny against the government.
Through his daughter the following statement was emailed to various news agencies, Sir Michael appeared to endorse Colonel Sasa stating ”If this is to be my last and biggest battle I will fight for the constitution, the underlying law that holds the very fabric of our democracy and democratic institutions together. I appeal to the leaders of our disciplinary forces to look beyond the current circumstances and come to terms with why you (are) a member of a law enforcing agency. You are here first and foremost to uphold and enforce the law of the land and the orders of the Supreme Court.’
I was unable to find any official statement from the FCO but the Commonwealth Secretariat in London released a statement on its website stating “…We deplore the extra-constitutional action taken by some elements in the military, and we are pleased that the situation has been brought under control and the country remains peaceful.
The Commonwealth unreservedly rejects any use of military means for domestic political purposes. We urge all concerned to continue to work towards resolving differences through dialogue, and in accordance with the Commonwealth’s values.”
As the world economy continues to experience massive downturns it is countries in the Commonwealth, like PNG, that the UK government should turn to. This organisation of 54 independent sovereign states shares a unique history and bond that no other organisation shares. It also includes one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India, and the members should be our new trading partners as Europe is falling into economic meltdown, while the US is already there.
This trading requires stability in all member states of the Commonwealth however, and the UK should be a leading figure in restoring stability to the PNG and any other member. With Queen Elizabeth as Head of the Commonwealth and as Head of State to PNG HM Government should be trying to help restore stability and end the impasse.
Elections in PNG due in June 2012 we can expect further stability as the courts there support Sir Michael while the political and law enforcement establishment are supporting Mr O’Neill. End the crisis and we can begin extending our trade and promoting British business there and in other Commonwealth nations in the area using Australia as an old-fashioned trading base. It is through the links that bind our peoples together that the UK will end the economic problems. This is the solution, and not Europe or America. Use our links, expand our trade with them and let Europe and the US sort their own messes out.