Pacific News Minute: Largest Opposition Party in PNG Parliament Joins the Government

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Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Last month, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill won a chaotic and sharply contested election in Papua New Guinea, over an energized opposition that accused O’Neill’s government of corruption and mismanagement. But after starting the new parliament with a sharply reduced majority, O’Neill drew in a steady stream of defectors. And yesterday, the largest party in the opposition alliance crossed the floor to join the government…we have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Just a few weeks ago, Sam Basil of the Pangu Pati campaigned on one issue. Peter O’Neill and the People’s National Congress had to go.

While he and the opposition alliance failed to win a majority. Pangu won 11 seats, and picked up five independents after Election Day to emerge as the largest party in the opposition. Even so, Basil was not selected as the leader of the opposition, which fueled reports on social media that he would cross the aisle, reports he denied two weeks ago.

Then, on Monday he stood next to Prime Minister O’Neill to confirm that he had decided to join the PNC government, and that he was bringing eleven members of his party with him.

Asked to explain, Basil told the website Loop PNG, “This is politics. If you flip a coin, there are two sides, government and opposition…Pangu decided to join the government so that we can also be a player.”

In a statement, he also said that switch was important so that Pangu MPs would be in position to receive the “sustained flow of government goods and services that are rightfully theirs.”

Prime Minister O’Neill welcomed the move and said that Basil and his MPs had not been promised anything in return for their defection: “They really want to work for the people,” he said “They want to work with the team.”

Former Prime Minister Sir Merkere Morauta said he was extremely disappointed. How, he asked, could his fellow Pangu MPs join a government that had wrecked PNG over the past five years.