PNG PRIME MINISTER WITHDRAWS CONTROVERSIAL AMENDMENT

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 15, 1998 - Radio Australia)--- Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Bill Skate has withdrawn a proposed constitutional amendment, designed to secure his hold on power for another four years.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports the amendment, which would have vastly increased the powers of the Prime Minister, was introduced at the last sitting of Parliament and it should have been voted on at the current sitting which began yesterday.

"The constitutional amendment would have done away with the current system under which a Prime Minister in PNG can be removed from office after eighteen months and be replaced without the country going through an election.

"Mr. Skate had claimed he was proposing the change to ensure stability. His own eighteen months immunity from challenge is up next January.

"Officially informing the Parliament today that he was withdrawing the amendment, Mr. Skate said he was doing so because some people had accused him of empire building and wanting to be a dictator.

"He claimed his decision proved he was not hungry for power. But his amendment would have required at least two-thirds majority support and he was never going to get that.

"Sean Dorney, Port Moresby."

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