A former Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, says the merger of two opposition political parties is an opportunity to force the country’s leader out of power.
The PNG Party is led by Vanimo Green MP Belden Namah, who was formerly deputy prime minister under Mr O’Neill between 2011 and 2012.
The National Alliance leader is Aitape-Lumi MP Patrick Pruaitch, who was Treasurer under Mr O’Neill for three years until last year’s general election when they parted ways.
While both Mr Pruaitch and Mr Namah formed coalition governments with Mr O’Neill and his People’s Nationals Congress party, they now say the prime minister must be removed for the good of the country.
“We have created this monster, and we have a moral obligation to the people of this country to remove him,” Mr Namah said at a press conference where the merger was announced.
The prime minister appears to have a strong majority in parliament, but numbers could become fluid as the opportunity to move a motion of no-confidence against him in early 2019 approaches.
Together the two parties have around 20 MPs in the 111-seat parliament.
Sir Mekere said the opposition also knew there were MPs on the government side who wanted Mr O’Neill out.
He said Mr O’Neill has had six years to change from the path of destruction he had set the country on, and it cannot put up with him any longer.
In a statement, he said that the former prime minister had been with more parties than any other leader in PNG’s history.
“Sadly for him, this political opportunism will leave him isolated, lacking in friends and respect, with shattered dreams and no party will be his legacy,” Mr O’Neill said.
“Rearranging deck chairs in the same boat is not going to increase numbers for the opposition.”
But Sir Mekere continues to criticise the O’Neill government’s focus on infrastructure spending for the upcoming APEC leaders summit when basic services around the country were failing.
He said it was a public shame that polio and leprosy had returned to PNG; that there are drug shortages all over the country; that teachers had suffered a pay cut and schools are closing, yet the prime minister orders 800 vehicles for the APEC meeting.
He said Mr O’Neill will have to account for every toea he has spent on APEC.