Papua New Guinea stalemate: "Work this out in parliament." | Asia Pacific

Papua New Guinea stalemate: "Work this out in parliament."

Papua New Guinea stalemate: "Work this out in parliament."

Posted 27 January 2012, 21:58 AEST

24 hours after the Papua New Guinea government declared an end to an attempted mutiny, the rogue soldiers have yet to lay down their weapons.

Instead, the 20 rebel soldiers dug in their heels at Tarama barracks, on the outskirts of the city, demanding a full pardon .. after they briefly held captive, the defence force commander Francis Agwi, before releasing him last night.

The mutiny was an attempt to force the reinstatement of former Prime Minister Michael Somare.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has again called for the leadership struggle to be resolved in Parliament.

It's a view shared by the former commander of the PNG Defence force, retired General Jerry Singirok.. who said the crisis was not over but due process must be followed.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Retired General Jerry Singirok, former commander, Papua New Guinea defence force

SINGIROK: That's correct, but you've got to understand that it's a process. Once the authorities have successfully removed the rogue soldiers from the point of all the activities, which was the Flagstaff House at Murray barracks, I think the process is about negotiating and trying to instil command and control, in a unit that has lost its original military command structure. It's a process. If the rogue soldiers are demanding a pardon, obviously, it will require the National Security Council's intervention and to give directions, but the armed soldiers cannot demand a pardon, under duress, to get a government in place, to give their conditions. I think that negotiation of a pardon cannot take place until the soldiers lay down their arms.

LAM: So the first step is for the soldiers to emerge from the Tarama barracks, surrender their arms and then, a pardon might be considered?

SINGIROK: Absolutely, you cannot do it the other way 'round. It's an issue that you cannot isolate, you've got to consider the whole event in its totality.

LAM: And how secure is the position of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill? Does he have the full backing of the PNG defence force?

SINGIROK: The fact that the six units, major units of the defence force have not rallied against Peter O'Neill, in the case, there was only a small handful of soldiers who've taken the law into their hands with Retired Colonel Sasa, so we cannot try to solicit that Peter O'Neill does not have the support of the soldiers.

It's also fair to say that it's business as usual in the whole country. We're pre-occupied with alot of developmental issues in Papua New Guinea. It's fair to say that this is a political standoff - it's totally irresponsible for one side of the government to use the military, which it started to do - the use military power, involvement in politics - and we've basically broken the back of democracy, and our constitution, the moment this happened.

So you see, Mr Peter O'Neill and even Sir Michael Somare, they have alot of following and respect in the country, so we cannot use the military, sections of the military to accept political influence, or power, over another political faction. Common sense prevails, and I think alot of Papua New Guineans, including over 90 percent of the soldiers do exercise that common sense.

And we have a disciplined force. Yes, we do have rogue elements in the force, reflecting the diversity and ethnicity of Papua New Guinea, because we're divided culturally, we still have military loyalty, but we also have ethnic loyalty, and this is something we've got to deal with.

LAM: You speak of the common sense of the people of Papua New Guinea. Do they also share the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's view, that Sir Michael should use the parliamentary process to sort out any kind of leadership concerns?

SINGIROK: Yes, I am calling on... er.. as a former commander and a very responsible senior citizen of this country, for the Speaker (of Parliament) Jeffrey Nape, to exercise his jurisdiction as the Speaker, to call on parliament to work this thing out politically, on the floor of parliament. Not using sections of the military or the police force, to exercise some kind of influence, using thuggery over the other party. I think it's time now, for Jeffrey Nape, as the referee, to come forward and to do what he has been mandated to do - which is to conduct the business on the floor of parliament. Because it's in the national interest. It's the welfare of the people that I put first, before any grandstanding - I think it's about time the parliamentarians use common sense to work these things out, once and for all.

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