TO OUTSIDERS PAPUA NEW GUINEA must always seem to be on the brink of catastrophe - but it never quite happens.
The almost farcical attempt last week by a retrenched Colonel to take over as the military Commander led to immediate speculation here in Australia that PNG was having a military coup.
Even Colonel Yaura Sasa ruled that out when he held his one and only news conference. But while denying he was staging a coup he did threaten to take "necessary action" if Sir Michael Somare was not reinstated as Prime Minister.
That amused me because one of the worst novels ever written about PNG was called Take Necessary Action. It was written by two sisters, Australians, who had been in the Highlands of PNG prior to Independence and it was about how rapidly PNG would descend into catastrophe because Australia under a socialist Labor Government would pull out and let the Chinese take over.
One of the most appalling lines in that dreadful book was a quote from one of the white Australian male heroes who, when marvelling at the beauty of the Highlands, remarked that, "This would be a great county if it was not for Oli."
'Oli' was the derogatory term some expatriates used for Papua New Guineans and it comes from the first two words in any Melanesian Pidgin sentence referring to any action by a number of people. 'Ol' is 'All' and 'i' is part of the verb - "Ol i kam": "They come" - "Ol i go": "They go".
So the white hero of Take Necessary Action believed PNG would be a wonderful place if only there were no Papua New Guineans in it!
There are close to seven million of them now and it seems that there is no great enthusiasm amongst many in the population for Sir Michael Somare to resume office as the legitimate Prime Minister.
Colonel Sasa could not arouse the support of any more than a handful of soldiers to reinstate Somare and his attempted takeover of the army lasted about half a day.
He did claim to be trying to uphold the law and obey the Supreme Court ruling that last year's vote in the Parliament which installed Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister was not done in a constitutionally proper way.
But that ruling is not so clear cut. Two of the five Supreme Court Judges who heard the case did not come down on the side of Sir Michael. Peter O'Neill has the support of a majority of the Members of Parliament and that has been demonstrated again and again since last August.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all this is that public respect for the courts and their rulings is probably being undermined.
The independence of the courts and public acceptance of their impartiality has been for a long time now regarded as one of the Papua New Guinea's great strengths.
Back in 1979, just four years after PNG's Independence, the Full Bench of the Supreme Court jailed the then Justice Minister, Nahau Rooney, for eight months for contempt of court after she had written to the Chief Justice berating him over an earlier ruling.
Somare, Prime Minister then too, made himself Acting Justice Minister and set Ms Rooney free after just one day pending an appeal to the non-judicial Mercy Committee. Five judges including the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice resigned. More than one thousand prisoners then broke out of jail from prisons all around PNG arguing that if it was good enough for the Justice Minister to go free it was good enough for them.
The PNG courts have been called upon to make rulings about parliamentary procedure before.
Prime Ministers in PNG get a certain period of freedom from Votes of No Confidence after being elected. Originally it was six months but later that was extended to 18 months.
Paias Wingti tried to gain an extra 18 months during one political crisis in PNG by resigning in secret to the Governor General, springing that news on a startled Parliament the next morning and then getting himself re-elected PM while his main challenger at the time, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, was overseas and the Opposition was confused.
The Supreme Court ruled Mr Wingti's snap resignation and re-election was not in accord with the spirit of law, that MPs should be able to make a considered judgement. The court annulled the vote. Mr Wingti knew he could not win a considered vote and resigned.
What makes the current situation so complicated is that Mr O'Neill, at this stage anyway, still enjoys majority support in the Parliament.
One of the more astonishing statements to come from the Somare camp in recent days has been made by Somare's Police Minister, Timothy Bonga.
In the wake of the failure of Colonel Sasa's mutiny, Mr Bonga called on the disciplined forces to back the Somare side.
"We are becoming a police state," Mr Bonga claimed, "where absolute power is now vested in the Parliament ... We cannot continue to call ourselves a democracy if this trend continues."
That, I think, sums up the current confusion in Papua New Guinea.
Elections will be held. They are due mid-year but could come earlier. And Australia does not have to fear an imminent catastrophe unfolding in its former colony and nearest neighbour.
Sean Dorney was the ABC's Correspondent in Papua New Guinea from 1979-1984 and from 1987-1998, and is currently Australia Network's Pacific Correspondent