RUMORS OF RIFT GIVE PNG PRIME MINISTER SKATE THE SHAKES

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 8, 1998 - Post Courier)---Prime Minister Bill Skate faces more political strife and criticism as claims of mismanagement and corruption mount against his 12-month-old government, the Post-Courier reports.

As rumors of a serious split in his coalition partner, the Peoples Democratic Movement, filtered through Parliament House yesterday, the Opposition seized the opportunity to call for Mr. Skate's resignation and direct more salvos of criticisms to discredit the Government.

And yesterday's adjournment of Parliament for the whole day due to the lack of a quorum did little to help the Government's cause.

The Opposition is preparing to go on the offensive again this week on the same issues of corruption, the management of the economy, and general administration.

Opposition sources said that they had a second video tape containing what they claimed to be explicit pornographic scenes involving another senior Government MP. They were planning on making it public, the sources said.

Another issue expected to be raised today concerns Cabinet's direction of a payment of K13 million ($US 6.33 million) to fund a consultant for the newly created Ministry of Public Enterprises, and for the relocation of the PNG Defense Force Engineering Unit to the Highlands.

Closure of vital education and health services in the face of a severe shortage of funds, and the fast-depreciating value of the kina also remain on the political agenda.

Word around Parliament corridors was that Middle Ramu MP Tommy Tomscoll planned to pull several PDM members out of Government and move to the middle benches.

While Mr. Skate maintained last night he had a good majority of 66 MPs to govern with, his rivals say otherwise, pointing to the simple majorities it had to pass motions last week.

Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi yesterday cast serious doubt on the ability of the Government to manage and lead the nation.

He alleged again that the Government was embroiled in corruption and that there was clear evidence it was unfit to manage the nation's affairs.

He called for Mr. Skate's resignation and hand-over of leadership.

"For the first time in the history of PNG a prime minister is definitely doing the wrong thing,'' Mr. Narokobi told a press conference.

"He is not governing this country, he is not managing the economy properly, he is not making money available to hospitals, to schools, to provincial governments and to departments.

"They should boast as the first Government that does not run the country, that doesn't know the difference between right and wrong, doesn't know the difference between what is moral and what is immoral, what is acceptable and what is not acceptable as human behavior.''

Mr. Narokobi said the Government had failed the 1998 Budget because it had not implemented it fully, and that their economic assumptions were off target.

Said Mr. Narokobi; "It is very, very clear to the entire nation that this Government must not be allowed to continue to the 18 months (grace period). In fact they must disintegrate and they must hand over now, before the end of the week.

"The ordinary day-to-day management of the country, its economy, is in a shambles. They might just as well call it quits and hand over the reins. They can't allow this nation to be mismanaged and destroyed in the way it is being mismanaged.''

Melanesian Alliance leader John Momis said there were enough instances where Government Members should "hang their heads in shame and get out.''

"They are ruining this country, they have no moral or political legitimacy any more because they have consistently breached the Leadership Code,'' he said. "They are running this country by deception and by manipulation which will result in the impoverishment of our people.''

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