Jan 18, 2019 Last Updated 4:12 AM, Jan 18, 2019

End of the road for Somare

AN era came to an end on April 4 when Papua New Guinea’s ‘father of the nation’ and one of the longest serving parliamentarians in the Pacific and the Commonwealth, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare took up his seat in Parliament for one last time to bid farewell. Exactly 49 years earlier, a younger Michael Somare walked into the House of Assembly in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea as a politician for the first time on April 4, 1968.

Sir Michael was retiring and his last sitting was also the conclusion of PNG’s ninth parliament before it adjourned for the general elections in late June. The former prime minister was given a standing ovation as he gave his farewell speech to parliament. Sir Michael, who served this last fiveyear parliament term as East Sepik Governor after his ousting as prime minister in 2011, said it had been a privilege to have served the people of Papua New Guinea.

“I practise national unity and I am proud to be called the father of the nation,” said the man known in PNG as the ‘Grand Chief’. Highly respected throughout the Pacific Islands region, Sir Michael was instrumental in ushering PNG to independence from Australia in 1975, upon which he served as the country’s first prime minister.

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PM O’Neill upbeat

PNG prepares to go to the polls

RIDING on the perceived success of the government’s core policies, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is confident of retaining government after the 2017 National Elections. Equally vying for the same is Opposition Leader Don Polye with other hopefuls including People’s Progress Party leader Ben Micah, National Alliance leader Patrick Pruaitch and Pangu Party leader Sam Basil.

They have publicly expressed interest - all are sitting Members of Parliament who will be seeking re-election in the polls which will open with nominations on April 27. Polling will start on June 24 and ends on July 8. Counting will start immediately and a new government will be expected after July 24.

Coming from the outside is former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta who has indicated interest in re-entering politics from retirement. He has his sights set on the top job as well. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is banking on his coalition government’s core policies to return him and his party to power after the elections. The policies include tuition fee free education, free primary health care and infrastructure development, among others.

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AFTER 16 months in office, Marshall Islands President Hilda C. Heine has a busy schedule. On the international stage, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has been active in global negotiations on climate change and nuclear weapons. But with key funding ending in 2023 under the current Compact of Free Association with the United States, the RMI government faces difficult financial decisions to maintain health, education and welfare programs.

As the first woman elected as leader of an independent Pacific island nation, Heine has a full agenda. Early in her career, she worked as Secretary of Education and has a lifelong involvement in education policy. The first Marshallese woman to gain a Ph.D., Heine also worked in Honolulu with Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), a non-profit organisation that works across Micronesia to promote “strong schools, healthy communities, and thriving cultures with Pacific hearts and global minds”.

In government, Heine sees education as a central focus for community improvement and government action. “Education is something that I do on a daily basis, improving the education of our people,” she told Islands Business. “We look at other small countries in the world that have been able to thrive because their people are educated and have the skills necessary to move their country forward. That’s what we hope to be able to do - to educate all our people and get them to the level that can sustain them.”

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Survivor Tonga

Pohiva defeats Nobles’ motion

THREE years after winning an election, pro-democracy fighter Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva has fought off a second vote of no confidence to maintain his position as Tonga’s prime minister. Behind the unsuccessful motion of no confidence in Parliament is a group of nobles, forced to give up their control of the house in 2010 by command of the late King George Tupou V. Pohiva prevailed by 14 votes to 10 with the Cabinet giving him 12 votes and an additional two from Pro-Democracy Movement Members of Parliament.

The 10 votes against him were from seven Noble Representatives - Lord Tu’ilakepa who tabled the no confidence motion, Lord Tu’iha’angana, Lord Fusitu’a, Lord Tu’i’afitu, Lord Tu’iha’ateiho, Lord Nuku, Lord Vaea - and Samiu Vaipulu, Vili Hingano and Fe’ao Vakata who represent the people.

Survivor Tonga Pohiva defeats Nobles’ motion Vaipulu was Deputy Prime Minister in the last Tongan government to be controlled by the Nobles. Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, Pacific Director at Massey University in New Zealand, told ABC Radio that the motion was a waste of time because the proposers knew they did not have the numbers to topple the government. 

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Class wars

Rulers ostracise their own

EARLY this month 32 of Tonga’s nobles met with one item on their agenda – Noble Ma’afu. This one member of the ruling class refused to stand with them and their nine elected members in a 26-member parliament to remove a commoner prime minister.

As part of their agreement, the Nobles decided to ostracise Ma’afu, not speak to him and promised they would not give him a ministerial position if they won a vote of no confidence against Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva.But Pohiva defeated the motion with Ma’afu – the Lands Minister – firmly by his side. As head of the Ha’a Havea Clan, this noble has 13 of the 33 Nobles in his family and is related to Pohiva’s father. Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, Pacific Director at Massey University in New Zealand, saw the no confidence motion as childish but understandable.

Prior to King George Tupou V’s constitutional change in 2010, the nobility controlled the legislature through its majority. But Tupou V allowed the nobles only nine seats and gave the commoners 17, a position for which Pohiva had campaigned for more than 30 years.

Until then, Tonga was a functioning constitutional monarchy with the king appointing the prime minister and cabinet. Parliament was a place where nobles and commoners could air their grievances and do little else. In 2014 Pohiva became prime minister after winning a place in parliament and then taking the votes of 15 of the elected MPs – including Ma’afu.

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