PNG’s Pangu in turmoil – facing no MPs as no confidence vote looms

Sam Basil ... deserting Pangu Pati and backing Prime Minister Peter O'Neill. Image: Pangu Pati

By Frankiy Kapin and Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby

Pangu Pati – the political party that gave Papua and New Guinea independence from Australia – may finally splutter on its colourful history and wind up with no members in PNG’s Parliament by next week.

Its apparent death knell was announced yesterday by party leader Sam Basil, who – along with his 14 MPs – say they have agreed to quit the parliamentary wing of the country’s oldest party before Tuesday’s vote of no confidence.

If this happens, it will signal a chapter in the life of Pangu where it will, for the first time in more than 50 years, have no MP in the House.

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Under Basil, Pangu swept through Morobe during the 2017 general election, claiming eight of the 10 seats, and is a key ally in Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress (PNC)-led coalition, but recent bickering between its non-parliamentary wing and Basil had led to his ouster as leader.

Basil announced last week he would soon launch his new party, Our Party.

However, the party’s general secretary, Morris Tovebae last night said Basil was not the Pangu leader, and had not been a Pangu member since being ousted by the court.

He said he or his executives had not received a single resignation letter from the 14 Pangu members.

Interim party leader
He said the Pangu party executive met and agreed to appoint Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu as its interim party leader, and Saonu had accepted to lead Pangu.

He said this appointment would be formally announced by the party executives shortly.

In Lae, Basil acknowledged that Morobe was the birth place and stronghold of Pangu, started by founding Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, but he and his party members had agreed to leave Pangu.

Basil admitted that the resurrection and dominance of Pangu Pati becoming the second biggest party in the current O’Neill-led coalition government was manifest of his leadership and not necessarily on the following of the Pangu Pati.

“I believe that we’ve got good players and good policies, unfortunately we didn’t get the first call of the peoples wish of the government they elected, so we respect that wish and are serving under the current government,” he said.

Basil said they would work with parties that shared common principles into the next election.

He said with the looming vote of no confidence, the Basil-led faction had made a promise to the O’Neill government and would stand by that promise as the second majority party.

Standing by PM
He said if the PM’s PNC party could not number up, they would have to tell the PM and move out.

Basil said but now if the PNC party had the numbers, they would stand by the prime minister.

Member for Sumkar Chris Nangoi, who accompanied Basil, reaffirmed his commitment to Basil, saying that he was voted by the Sumkar people who made a choice between two Pangu Pati candidates contesting the same seat.

He said one was put in by the Pangu Pati executives and the other by Basil, and the outcome showed that the people believed in the leadership of Basil by voting for Nangoi.

Frankiy Kapin and Gorethy Kenneth are Post-Courier reporters.

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