PNG PM SKATE DISMISSES NALI AND FIVE OTHER MINISTERS

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By Neville Togarewa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 15, 1998 - The National)--- Prime Minister Bill Skate yesterday sacked his deputy and People's Progress Party (PPP) leader Michael Nali and five other PPP ministers.

He will announce the replacements at 10:00 a.m. today before they are sworn in by Governor General Sir Silas Atopare at Government House.

In a surprise move which could backfire in the months leading up to an impeding no-confidence vote in February, Mr. Skate sacked the entire PPP as a Government coalition partner, accusing Mr. Nali and his men of causing "instability" in the 14-month-old Government.

The Prime Minister did not explain what he meant by "instability," but said as Prime Minister he and his Government expected his coalition partners to consult each other and work together in the interest of the nation.

In a letter to the affected ministers, the Prime Minister said: "It is my very sad duty to seek your cooperation in requesting you to resign your position. . .

"As you are aware the Government caucus has made a decision for PPP to withdraw from the coalition and this decision is one made on purely political grounds."

He asked for the resignations of the ministers by 4:06 p.m. yesterday.

Mr. Nali was Deputy Prime Minister and Trade and Industry Minister. Other PPP ministers were Philomel Emboli (Mining and Energy), Takuma Mason (Agriculture and Livestock), Yaw Rayon (Works and Implementation), Tiptoes Philomel (Youth and Church Affairs) and Moths Karin (Industrial Relations).

The names being bandied around last night to succeed the sacked PPP ministers were three People's Democratic Movement Members of Parliament, John Cambia (Kerowagi), Andrew Kumbakor (Nuku) and Pila Niningi (Imbonggu), and Member of the United Resources Party, Masket Iangalio (Wapenamanda).

It is also understood Mr. Skate had offered ministries to PPP Members of Parliament Mr. Rayon and Mr. Karin, but the party decided to "stick together."

The PPP ministers decided not to resign, preferring to be sacked.

Mr. Skate told reporters at a press conference at Parliament House that he would be Acting Deputy Prime Minister for two or three weeks, before he announced Mr. Nali's replacement, after full consultation with his Government caucus.

Asked why he had to wait for two weeks or more to appoint his deputy, Mr. Skate said he needed the time to consult with his coalition partners, PDM and URP, and decide who would be best suited for the nation's second top executive post.

He said his sacking of PPP would mean Mr. Nali's party would join Pangu Pati -- as its former Government coalition partner -- in the current Opposition.

Mr. Skate said he was happy that he now had only two major parties - his own PNG First and PDM besides URP with five members, giving him a total 61 Members of Parliament.

PPP AWAITS REASON FOR SACKING

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 15, 1998 - The National)---The People's Progress Party was yesterday still waiting for a reason from Prime Minister Bill Skate for its dismissal from the Government.

Party leader and ousted Deputy Prime Minister Michael Nali said the Prime Minister informed him and his party members of his dramatic decision at a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning.

"He did not ask us to resign. He sacked us. For that kind of action there has to be a charge. There has to be a reason. He has given us none," said Mr. Nali.

"We formed this Government. We have served him loyally. We have nothing against him. The least he owes us is an explanation for sacking us."

He said although two of his ministers were not asked to resign, they were sticking together as a group.

The PPP ministers in Cabinet until yesterday's sacking were: Michael Nali, Deputy Prime Minister and Trade and Industry; Philomel Emboli, Mining; Takuma Mason, Agriculture and Livestock; Yaw Rayon, Works; Tiptoes Philomel, Church and Family Affairs; and Moths Karin, Youth and Employment.

Mr. Skate asked for the resignation of all except Messrs. Karin and Rayon by the close of business, 4:06 p.m. yesterday.

In his letter to Mr. Nali, the Prime Minister said: "As you are aware the Government caucus has made a decision for PPP to withdraw from the coalition and this decision is one made on purely political grounds.

"I would be grateful if you could consider offering your resignation as I wish that our association should be ended in this manner. I should appreciate a reply by 4:06 p.m."

None of those affected had tendered their resignation by that time yesterday.

Mr. Skate said he would decommission the ministers by 10:00 a.m. today.

Mr. Nali said he would keep his party on the Government back benches rather than cross to the Opposition.

"This is my Government. We formed it. We will continue to give the Prime Minister our support from the back benches," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nali called on the new commander of the PNG Defense Force, Brigadier General Jerry Singirok, to refuse the post.

Mr. Nali said the appointment would embroil the commander in a new set of controversies which could be taxing both for himself and the force.

"I strongly oppose the appointment and am glad I was not part of that decision," he said.

"If I was in cabinet with my ministers, I would have opposed the appointment.

"At least the Prime Minister should do Jerry Singirok a favor and give him a senior post elsewhere.

"He does not need to be sent back into the hell hole again."

Mr. Nali said that Brig. Gen. Singirok had been used before and should be careful that he is not used again.

"He is a family man. He is a career officer and he has his private life to live. He does not need to be dragged through controversy again," said Mr. Nali.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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