Life after #Marape: PNG’s political ‘glass men’ still trying to work out what’s next

marapeThe last 48 hours has  had Papua New Guinean  forums have been buzzing with excitement.

Before  James Marape, announced his resignation,  very few people expected a crack  in the PNC ranks that high up.

Marape  said he was leaving  because Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, had lost trust him and that the PM’s associates  contributed to it.

Until Thursday this  week,  James Marape was one of the  top men in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.   As Finance Minister,   he was  a major player in the formulation of six national budgets and oversaw various  finance related policies by the O’Neill-Abel Government.

While on the surface things appeared smooth, there was a turbulent undercurrent largely kept under wraps until this week.  His  exit has also  given a glimpse into the inner workings of PNG politics.  The open secret of cultural ties and the non-elected  political influencers that  remain hidden from public eye.

Marape revealed  publicly what many other  Members of Parliament  had previously expressed – that the faceless  political hangers-on  had a hand in  affecting and influencing political decisions in the country.

Marape said he had lost trust of the Prime Minister and part of  it was because ‘associates’ of the government  contributed to that distrust.

“The decision is not easy to make and despite the cultural  and personal ties, the level of trust between the Prime Minister and myself is at the lowest after his office and associates continue  to send negative signals on the lack of trust on me,”  Marape said.

With talk of a  vote of no confidence,  the political ‘glass man’  peering into the murky crystal balls of Waigani   attempting to  interpret  James Marape’s resignation  are  coming up with  different results.  Marape’s resignation is certainly a blow,  but how damaging  is it?

Behind the scenes, insiders say the numbers  on the fringes of the coalition appear fluid while the core remains largely intact.

The Prime Minister was in New Ireland  on Thursday when  James Marape  announced his resignation in Port Moresby.  Attempts to get a response from the PM were delayed by a few hours.  A close aid, sent a text message saying the PM would release a statement  after meeting with  other members present at the meeting in New Ireland.

Just before 6pm, his office send  a short  statement in which the PM acknowledged  Marape’s resignation.

“I have not heard from the Minister today, as a matter of protocol, I expect that he will be in contact soon to convey his intentions.”

Like many political statements,  Marape’s  has to be also  read in between the lines. He said  his disagreements with the PM stem from various, what he called, work related matter including concerns over the amount of  participation  Papua New Guineans had in the resource sector.

He went  on further to echo what other ministers like  Planning Minister Richard Maru, has repeatedly raised previously – that agreements and legislations governing  the resource sector are  not configured to  allow the people and the country  to generate wealth.

Marape’s resignation comes  days after the signing of the Papua  LNG project – a deal that fanned more dissatisfaction when the media reported  that landowners would get just 2 percent of the USD13 billion project. Weather  that contributed directly to his resignation is a question Marape is yet to answer himself.

Like most political situations  involving numbers on the floor of parliament,  it’s best to read between the lines, study the undercurrent, and listen to what politicians aren’t saying.

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