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 – 2022

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’s 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 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 slogan ‘Take Back PNG’ gains 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.

Who is the best candidate for the PNG Prime Minister’s position?

The two MPs in the race for the prime minister’s seat after the 2022 elections are the incumbent James Marape and Peter O’Neill.
There are some dark horses who are also party leaders. Some names that are going around during the elections are:
  • Belden Namah (Momase) – he was the incumbent Opposition Leader and a party leader, 3 terms MP and likely to be the force behind the formation of a new govt. A potential PM candidate, but abrupt and reactive.
belden namah png election 2022

  • Kerenga Kua (Highlands)- he is the 2 term, a strong supporter of the late Sir Micheal Somare and leader of the eastern (lower) highlands block, and the leader of the National Party. He is a lawyer by profession, can stand his ground and has a presence about him. He is a dark horse but he will have difficulty working with people he did not like.
kerenga kua for png prime minister

  • Dr Allan Marat (New Guinea Islands) – is cool, calm and collected. He can make a great prime minister. He needs to put his hand up and make it count as the leader of the Melanesian Liberal Party. This is a long shot, but this MP has the PM’s aura about him.
png 2022 election results formation of govt

  • Patrick Pruiatch (Momase)- he is a 3 term MP serving senior ministerial portfolios during the Somare, O’Neill and Marape govts; and leader of the National Alliance party. He comes across as an intelligent MP, but it’s quite the opposite.
papua new guinea prime minister 2022

  • Don Polye (Highlands) – he occupies senior ministerial portfolios in the Somare and O’Neill govts. Not easily manipulated, a fighter. He is the leader of THE party. He is a civil engineer by profession and can work with MPs from every part of the country. Yet, his THE party has struggled to muster numbers in elections.
png prime minister don polye 2022 election results

  • Charles Abel (Southern) – a former deputy prime minister, he settled well as the second in command. However, he has a good chance of changing seats with the leader of the PNC party and commanding a following in the Southern part of the country.
png prime minister 2022 election results

Expect the unexpected

Anyone who follows the PNG elections and by-elections in the past will know that it is ‘unpredictable’!
The governor-general will invite the party with the highest number to form the new govt after the 2022 national general elections. Yet, it does not mean that the prime minister will come from that party, because candidates do jump parties last minute.
Also, the independent candidate will have a lot of say in who’s going to be the next prime minister of PNG.

So, who is the best candidate for the Prime Minister’s position after the 2022 election?

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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