THE concept of power is inherent in politics and is seen as the ability to influence the people to do things that they may not want to do.
After the last national election in 2011, the current O’Neill-Dion government derived its legitimacy from the people through universal suffrage and the secret ballot.
The result of this was the eventual formation of a coalition government which promised free education, an emphasis on health care, major road construction and many other initiatives.
Peter O’Neill also proved to be a prime minister who was enthusiastic about keeping in touch with his own people.
Wherever the prime minister goes, and he visits some of the remotest parts of the country, he makes sure a number of ministers and backbenchers accompany him.
The prime minister’s last trip to remote Jimi and Obura Wonenara remain fresh in the minds of the people. A villager from Jimi commented he was not going to wash for a long time as he did not want to remove the smell of Mr O’Neill from his skin.
The prime minister’s “big man” power over people in rural areas is best described by the example of this man. And there are more people in the rural areas who have seen Mr O’Neill than any other past prime minister.
At the same time, unskilled workers in PNG talk about generosity of the current government.
To them, achieving the government’s commitment to increase the minimum wage is something for the relevant authority to work worry about.
To them the fact the news hit the headlines makes it a done deal and a credit to the government.
The grassroots frontier of government in PNG, the village courts and councillors, have also been promised increased pay.
These people invent songs for the current government which are sung whenever they are drunk.
The presidents of Local Level Governments throughout the country, most of them village politicians, have been provided with brand new LandCruisers and some have been appointed members of the District Budget Priority Committee.
These are privileges the presidents never dreamed of. They accord praise to the O’Neill government.
People’s National Congress (PNC), the political party that won the most seats at the last election, has become the centre of attraction.
Many Member of Parliament have defected from their former parties to join PNC. Its leader, Peter O’Neill, used his prime ministerial power to sack the leaders of his two major coalition partners, William Duma (United Resource Party) and Don Polye (Triumph and Heritage Empowerment Party).
This was a real test for Member of Parliament from these parties. They remained dead silent. This could mean many things, but one thing for sure is that the members of the two parties have been split.
As if sacking the two party leaders was not enough, the government then sacked a senior minister in Attorney-General Kerenga Kua.
While the younger members of the National Alliance Party are tight-lipped over Kerenga’s sacking, Sir Michael Somare who has been in PNG politics longer than any of the current MPs had the strength to stand by his sacked minister.
It was an exemplary action from an old man, a strength that many current MPs lack.
We are hearing that all former prime ministers will make up the board of the proposed Kumul Holdings with Peter O’Neill as the trustee. It will be interesting to see which of the former PMs reject this offer, I am confident there will be one who won’t play along.
Having observed the way in which he uses power and influence, I am beginning to think prime minister Peter O’Neill meant business when he said, “This government has been mandated by the people in the last election and the opposition can wait until 2017 to unseat the government”.
He’s certainly covered a lot of bases in his mission to remain in power for at least the length of his first full term.