True colours

TALK of a cabinet reshuffle may have died down in recent weeks, but it remains difficult to rule out as 20% of Papua New Guinea’s Members of Parliament get referred to a reawakened Ombudsman Commission. By Wantok

The OC was curiously quiet during many events of the "political impasse" in those tumultuous months before the 2012 election, but the eventual appointment of a chief ombudsman two months ago has repaved the avenue for taking PNG's politicians to task.

In what became the lead story in The National yesterday, the 23 MPs facing an OC referral on Monday by the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties reportedly included a "motley crew of senior ministers, governors and ordinary MPs".

All of them face questions over their election funding, which they probably did not bank on answering because the ORPP has never exercised this power under a 2001-created organic law.

While the OC is considered a toothless tiger in terms of the penalties it has dished out to politicians to date, any move to unseat them may give the PNG government a much-needed credibility boost.

This is especially the case for Prime Minster Peter O'Neill, who is not the first politician to promise to fight corruption, but certainly made a bigger emphasis on it than most.

While his government's Task Force Sweep was a populist measure on this front, the fact that its chief Sam Koim has used the typically confrontational Today Tonight news program to pressure Australia's efforts in the money-laundering chain may be seen as passing the buck.

After all, a well-financed taskforce would surely focus on the source of where the corruption took place, in PNG, not where the money ended up overseas and outside of its reach.

In many ways, it seems to be more of the same, with the public weary of PNG government figures that say the right things but ultimately make no difference.

Yet challenges over the performance of the O'Neill government remain lacking, with the exception of what is generated by the Opposition under its outspoken leader, Belden Namah.

Many people are holding their breath to see the outcome of the budget this year to truly get a handle on the progress made, but there is also the risk that by this time it's too late.

The government's most recent constitutional amendments will make it very hard to challenge Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, and they could face their second vote and consequential final approval in 2-3 weeks.

Once this is in the bag everyone may finally get to see whether O'Neill will truly fight corruption.

If he is genuine, expect to see suspect MPs stripped of power. And if he isn't, be prepared for little change at all, or worse, a ramp up in unpredictable behaviour from a government that has already muscled its way into the position of acquiring control of the Ok Tedi mine.


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