PNG’s Pangu Pati entangled in new legal row over female president

Pangu Pati president Erigere Singin
New Pangu Pati president Erigere Singin with Prime Minister James Marape ... a political milestone for PNG women. Image: PNG govt

By Jeffrey Enapa in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s ruling Pangu Pati is entangled in another internal dispute just six months before the issue of writs for the 2022 general election.

This time, the former president of the party, Patrick Pundao, has gone to the National Court to dispute the recent election of the first female party president, Erigere Singin.

The Pangu Pati only recently recovered from similar party infighting.

Former Pangu Pati president Patrick Pundao
Former Pangu Pati president Patrick Pundao … challenging election of party’s first woman president. Image: Loop PNG

That fighting resulted in prolonged court battles between the parliamentary wing and the party executives that led to then party leader Sam Basil breaking away to form the United Labour Party.

He left behind a small parliamentary team led by deputy party leader and Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu, who then handed over the leadership to current Prime Minister James Marape at the height of the 2019 political impasse.

Punda claimed that the clauses in the party constitution were breached when conducting the national convention that led to the election of Singin as national president in August this year.

Within two months after the election of the national president in August, the Pangu party executive tussle has resurfaced and gone to court.

A court injunction
While it is not related, deputy party leader and Morobe Governor Saonu has also taken out a court injunction against his own Pangu Pati-led government on the Wafi Golpu mining exploration project, an issue that can also create instability in the party and the government as they prepare for the election.

Meanwhile, Pundao in his notice of motion, claimed that the Pangu Pati convention in Port Moresby at the Hilton Hotel on August 27 had breached clauses 18, 20.1 and 20.2 of the party constitution.

Clause 18 relates to the composition of the national convention, which should consist of the members of the council, the parliamentary members, two delegates for a branch and another, as determined by the committee.

According to the party constitution, clause 20.1 related to the procedures that require an eight week notice to be given by the secretary general of the party detailing the time and the venue of the national convention while clause 20.2 states that the chair of the national convention should be the national president but he was not given the opportunity to chair convention as required by law.

He said he was sidelined and the master of ceremony took control of the meeting.

Pundao, in his notice of motion, sought orders to:

  • Restrain Singin from holding office as the national president of the Pangu Pati Inc;
  • Restrain the Pangu Pati general secretary Morris Tovbae from issuing any Pangu Pati meeting; and
  • Stop the office of the Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates Commission from distributing any the constitutional grants to the party.

Justice Ambeng Kandakasi, who presided over the notice of motion, ordered that:

  • The pending motion and substantive proceedings are adjourned to November 9, 2021, at 9.30am, for hearing of the motion and directions hearing;
  • All parties are required to cooperate and resolve the issues presented in the proceedings within seven days from or by October 26, 2021;
  • For the purpose of the meeting under the last preceding order, only those who are qualified by the Pangu Pati Inc constitution shall participate;
  • The general secretary of the party shall, if need be, give notice for the special general meeting by October 27, 2021; and
  • Time for the entry of these orders is abridged

Pundao said the second order directing parties to meet was expected to be carried out today.

Jeffrey Enapa is a PNG Post-Courier reporter.

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