Papua New Guinea Prime Ministers Past and Present

The prime minister’s position carries a lot of responsibilities, and also benefits. This is the highest position in the country – those that occupied it will always crave it. But, does this make them the best PNG prime minister candidates?

Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea

Here is a list of PNG prime ministers since independence.
  • Late Sir Michael Thomas Somare (Momase) 1975 – 1980; 2002 – 2012
  • Sir Julius Chan (New Guinea Island) 1980 – 1982; 1994 – 1997
  • Pius Wingti (Highlands) 1986 – 1988; 1992 – 1994
  • Sir Rabbie Namaliu (Momase) 1988 – 1992
  • Late Bill Skate (Southern) 1997 – 1999
  • Late Sir Mekere Morauta (Southern) 1999 – 2002
  • Peter O’Neill (Highlands) 2012 – 2019
  • James Marape (Highlands) 2019 – 2024

The last man standing, Sir Julius Chan, describes the former PNG prime ministers in his book, Playing the Game.

Here is what he thought of the past PNG PMs.

  • Sir Michael Somare – he thought Somare was a close friend but a political rival. He did not like Somare’s style of leadership. Throughout his book, he was slagging Somare’s political tactics and the way political powers were concentrated within small political groups called the ‘4 Sirs and the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’.
  • Pius Wingti – he thought he was okay to work with as his deputy PM. He finds him different from the other Highlands MPs like Okuk. He thought Wingti focused more on business and less on politics.
  • Sir Rabbie Namaliu – he thought Namaliu was a true academic, but indecisive.
  • Bill Skate – he loathed Skate and thought he should never be trusted.
  • Sir Mekere Morauta –-Sir Julius Chan said very little about Mekere. Understandably, he was out of office when Sir Mekere got into politics.
He did not say much about Peter O’Neill and James Marape, they became PM after his book was released in 2016.

Living Prime Ministers of PNG

Sir Julius Chan’s role as the PNG prime minister was brought to an end during the university student strike of 1994. His idea of hiring the Sandline Mercenary was unpopular and gained a hostile welcome as students and the PNG Defence Force revolted against it.
Pius Wingti and Sir J are happy running their provinces.
Sir Rabbie Namaliu has been out of the political scene in Papua New Guinea since he lost the election in 1992.
Peter O’Neill took over from the NA-run government when the founder was sick and in a hospital in Singapore. His prime ministerial role was marred by court battles and controversial business deals. He spent more time in courts than in the prime minister’s office. He used DSIP/PSIP grants to tie MPs down. O’Neill’s commitment to the TFF policy is acknowledged, but there are serious issues surrounding transparency about him.
James Marape’s slogan ‘Take Back PNG’ gained popularity. He has a hand in the Pogera and Papua LNG deals which turn out to be decisive. Yet he was known to have spent a lot of money on overseas trips such as the K5 million one-day trips to Indonesia and COP26.

So, will be the PNG Prime Minister if there is a vote of no confidence in 2024?

Is Allan Bird the best candiate? It should not be anyone with a dramatic past, but someone who can empower the people through education, change the mineral and resource laws and bring economic independence.
The country has seen a glimpse of hope in the past Prime Ministers, but they are yet to see someone who CAN get the public servants to earn their pay, and work for the people they serve.
It’s not easy. But, it can be done.

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