2011–12 Papua New Guinean constitutional crisis

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More information on this topic can be found in the equivalent article in the French Wikipedia.
Peter O'Neill (left) and Michael Somare (right).

The 2011–2012 Papua New Guinean constitutional crisis was a dispute that started from January 2011 in Papua New Guinea between Peter O'Neill and Sir Michael Somare over who was legally Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.[1] It ended after the general election that was held from 23 June to about 13 July 2012.[2]

Although the crisis was concentrated on a few days in mid-December, and resulted in the de facto retention of Peter O'Neill's power, it continued to have repercussions, as Somare did not admit defeat. Thus, on 26 January, it led to a brief mutiny in the armed forces of the country.

The crisis ended at the end of July 2012, following the 2012 General Election which gave O'Neill a clear advantage. Admitting defeat, Somare, to the surprise of some, supported O'Neill for the post of Prime Minister; the two announcing that they would form a coalition government.[2]

Political System[edit]

The Papua New Guinea is a multiparty democracy and a member of the Commonwealth. It is a fully sovereign state, whose Constitution recognises Queen Elizabeth II as a monarch, delegating her functions to a mostly symbolic Governor-General elected by the Parliament, which is itself elected by the public at General Elections. Similar to the Westminster system, the Prime Minister is a member of the National Parliament elected by the party's members, governing as long as it has the confidence of a majority in the Parliament.

Article 142(2) of the Constitution provides that the Prime Minister is appointed "by the Head of State, acting in accordance with a decision of the Parliament." Constitutionally, the powers of the head of state are to the Queen, but in her absence they are exercised by the Governor-General.[3]

Prime ministerial dispute[edit]

By mid-2011, Somare had spent months in a hospital in Singapore, with Sam Abal as acting Prime Minister in Papua New Guinea. The majority of members of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea decided in August 2011 to rescind their confidence in Somare in his absence and instead put it behind O'Neill. The Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Ogio, then, on 2 August and according to constitutional convention,[1] appointed O'Neil as Prime Minister. However, upon Somare's return, he challenged the dismissal in the country's supreme court, which ruled in December 2011 that Somare's removal from the role of Prime Minister in August had been unlawful and ordered and directed that he be reinstated.[4] The Governor-General did not immediately comply, stating he "could not understand the court judgment",[1] and O'Neill refused to relinquish the position and remained supported by most members of Parliament.[5]

Ogio, following the court order, subsequently recognised Somare as Prime Minister, to which the majority in Parliament responded on 14 December 2011 by "suspending" Ogio and declaring Jeffrey Nape, as Speaker of the National Parliament, as automatically acting Governor-General. However, there is no indication the Queen of Papua New Guinea, Elizabeth II, who appoints the Governor-General as her representative in the country, revoked Ogio's commission as viceroy. On 19 December, Parliament again recognised Ogio as Governor-General and O'Neill as Prime Minister.[6][7][8]

The dispute continued amid the appointment of two different police commissioners on the conflicting advice of O'Neil and Somare.[citation needed]

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Mutiny[edit]

On 26 January 2012, about 30 soldiers under the leadership of Colonel Yaura Sasa took control of the Taurama Barracks and military headquarters in Port Moresby, placing the head of the PNG defence force, Brigadier General Francis Agwi, under house arrest. Sasa had been appointed defence chief by Somare several days earlier. Sasa requested that O'Neill step down as prime minister in favour of Somare within a week. O'Neill's deputy Belden Namah said that 15 of the soldiers involved in the mutiny had been arrested and Sasa may be charged with treason.[9] Sasa, still at Taurama Barracks, requested a pardon.[10]

Standard & Poor's revised its outlook for PNG to negative after the mutiny attempt.[11] Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard condemned the attempted mutiny, saying the military has no place in Papua New Guinea politics.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Gunfire as PNG crisis grows". The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Peter O’Neill elected as PNG Prime Minister". Radio New Zealand International. 3 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea" (PDF). 1975. Retrieved 24 May 2017. 
  4. ^ Lox, Liam (13 December 2011). "PNG court restores Somare as PM". ABC News. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "Dumped prime minister Sir Michael Somare ordered army mutiny". News.com.au. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  6. ^ "Governor-General Michael Ogio suspended for backing Michael Somare", The Australian, 15 December 2011
  7. ^ "GG ousted", The National, 15 December 2011
  8. ^ "PNG’s GG suspension lifting appears another nail in coffin of Somare bid", Radio New Zealand International, 19 December 2011
  9. ^ "Rebels demand new Papua New Guinea government". nzherald.co.nz. 26 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Leader of Papua New Guinea military mutiny demands pardon after PM refuses to step down". The Washington Post. Washington DC: WPC. 27 January 2012. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 27 January 2012. [dead link]
  11. ^ Perry, Michael (27 January 2012). "PNG's failed mutiny worsens investment risk". reuters.com. Retrieved 27 January 2012. 
  12. ^ "Mutinous PNG troops refuse to lay down arms". aljazeera.com. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.