Home > Human rights, Papua New Guinea, Politics > Occupy Waigani as it unfolded – by Martyn Namorong

Occupy Waigani as it unfolded – by Martyn Namorong

And what a glorious day it was as the Sun beat through the cloudless sky and scorched all life in Port Moresby. The streets were largely deserted and the few who ventured out carried on rather nervously. Port Moresby’s notorious traffic jams were nowhere to be seen and for once the city looked like the most livable place on earth.

Angau Drive in Boroko with its lush vegetation had a slow stream of pedestrians, much to the annoyance of street vendors who prop up stalls near the footpath. The roundabout near SP Brewery did not have its usual scrum of vehicles puffing out toxic fumes.

Along Kennedy Drive where mobile giant Digicel is headquartered in Papua New Guinea, a mother escorts her child back from Gordon’s Secondary School. They’re both immersed in conversations about the Constitutionality of the Judicial Conduct Act and Parliament decision to postpone elections (sic).

The Gordons main bus stop and market area is unusually slow as a small crowd mingles around waiting for buses or buying mobile phone credits.

The largest city in the South Pacific, Port Moresby, had been shut down for Occupy Waigani, a protest organized to demand that Parliament rescind its decision to interfere with the Judiciary and to postpone the elections.

At around 10 am, students from the University of Papua New Guinea are all gathered on campus for their march to Sir John Guise stadium. As news filters that the University students were moving, a vocal crowd of predominantly teenage primary school boys leaves the stadium and heads towards the Government Offices at Waigani. The boys are stopped by police opposite Morauta Haus – the office complex that houses the Prime Ministers Department.

Back at the stadium a live band performs to a growing crowd of about 5000 people. Everyone is waiting for the arrival of the University Students.

An hour later the Students enter Independence Drive. The students were advise to March to the stadium instead of taking public transport. It is a lesson learnt from Tahir Square that once a small group with great legitimacy takes the streets, the sympathetic public joins the queue. And it worked as the students marched to Waigani with a 5000 strong crowd.

Sir John Guise stadium was now packed with about 10 000 people. Many Port Moresby residents had never seen such a crowd. This crowd serves as an ominous warning to Port Moresby based politicians as the clock ticks is way down to Election Time. One protestor described the crowd as the largest she had seen since the 1991 South Pacific Games held at Sir John Guise stadium.

The rhetoric began on stage and the crowd cheered “RAUSIM! RAUSIM! RAUSIM!” [Rescind! Rescind! Rescind! In Tok Pisin] as various speakers called on the O’Namah Regime to rescind its recent decisions. Unionists Michael Malabag and John Paska address the crowd first. Legal expert Dr John Nongorr then articulates the unconstitutionality of these changes in Tok Pisin. No doubt Dr Nongorr had done an excellent job in Tok Pisin.

As Dr Nongorr speaks, the O’Namah Regimes’ convoy enters the stadium. Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu also makes her way in. As the O’Namah entourage came to a standstill at the stadium, they were booed by the crowds.

The politicians make their way up the stadium and there is minor chaos on stage as seats are being sought for them. Dr Nongorr then continues his rhetoric and then Presents a synopsis of the Petition. Prime Minister O’Neil is presented the petition by Unionist Michael Malabag while the UPNG Student President Emmanuel Isaac presents another to Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen. The Trawen Petition calls on the Electoral Commissioner to go ahead with the elections as scheduled.

Here are the outcomes of Occupy Waigani at Sir John Guise stadium: [as summarized by ActNow]

  1. The issue of writs is officially postponed until May 18th (Mr Trawen said so!)
  2. Today’s Parliament sitting is postponed to 10am tomorrow
  3. The Judicial Act will be repealed as long as Injia and Kirriwom step down (Mr O’Neil said so)
  4. The issue of today’s march will blow over and people will forget (Mr Namah said so)
  5. Mr O’Neil wound down his window and waved royally to all of us gathered at the Sir John Guise Stadium when leaving.
  6. Mr O’Neil stated clearly that ONLY the Electoral Commissioner has the authority to delay or not the 2012 National Elections therefore he can’t give assurance that elections will run according to schedule
  7. Mr O’Neil stated CLEARLY that he will repeal the Judicial Act if Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justice Nicholas Kirriwom step down.
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