Yes, there is a Doctor in the
December 18, 2003
The outcome of the Abau election was a double
It gave the clearest possible indication of the
suitability of the limited preferential voting system for Papua New
And it was an unmistakeable triumph for Dr Puka Temu,
the National Alliance candidate, and the Somare
The more important of these two achievements was
the vindication of the limited preferential system of
For the first time in the history of an independent
PNG, we have returned a member to the House on a fair and balanced
The previous first-past-the-post system led to
dreadful anomalies in many seats, notably in the
Some constituencies regularly fielded 30 or more
candidates at national elections, and the "winner"-- that is the
candidate who scored the most votes -- often represented a mere
seven or eight percent of the voting electorate.
That was a
travesty of electoral justice that turned PNG's democratic
aspirations into a farce.
It seems those days have mercifully
passed, and we can be grateful for the many Electoral Commission
personnel who have worked long and hard to bring about this
On the Abau front, the National
Parliament will now be without a member of the Genia family for the
first time in many years.
The outgoing member, Kilroy Genia,
was preceded into Parliament by his brother Jack, who died in office
while Leader of the Opposition.
Not that Dr Puka Temu, who
has now put behind him Kilroy Genia's attempt to unseat him through
the Court of Disputed Returns, is any stranger to the people of his
electorate, or to the nation.
As one of the most successful
long-term Secretaries for Health, Dr Temu commanded widespread
respect both within the department and throughout the
There was a strong feeling at his initial election
to the Abau seat that candidates of the quality of Dr Temu were
precisely what the PNG
Parliament most needed, if we were
ever to return the House to the level of respect it once
Now at least we will have the opportunity to see
what Dr Temu and like-minded members can achieve in the second half
of this parliament.
Nor will we have long to
Legislation requiring a two-thirds majority of members
will shortly come before the House once again.
constitutional amendment seeks to have the present 18 months grace
period before a vote of no confidence may be moved extended to 36
It has been narrowly defeated twice.
now appear to have a strong chance of being confirmed, unless one or
more members break ranks.
The confirmation of Dr Temu's
election in Abau, and the return of re-instated Middle-Ramu MP Ben
Semri, coupled with expected support from the Menyamya and Ijivitari
MPs -- absent during the last vote - plus the vote of Speaker Bill
Skate, who will have been relieved of his duties as acting
Governor-General by the time the vote is taken, should give the
Government a one vote majority.
There has been a great deal
of controversy over this constitutional amendment, and a great deal
of it has been nothing more than political posturing from certain
members with their own private agendas.
A handful of more
thoughtful members has genuine concerns over the possibility that
this amendment if carried could enshrine an unmovable and
dictatorial government, one that would be extremely difficult to
But as we have previously pointed out, Prime
Ministers are elected by the members of the House.
along the way we must have confidence in those whom we elect to
Parliament - and if we do not, then we should not elect
Crucial to this process of determining an accountable
government is to grant it the right to plan ahead.
is one negative that has become painfully obvious in the political
processes of this country since independence, it has been the lack
of forward and sustainable planning.
Our elected governments
must be guaranteed the right to carry through their plans for PNG,
for the simple reason that we the people have elected them to do so
The ultimate power to elect a suitable
government lies, as it must, in our own