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By Neville Togarewa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 16, 1998 - The National)--- Wapenamanda MP and former Petroleum and Energy Minister Masket Iangalio is tipped to replace sacked Deputy Prime Minister and People's Progress Party (PPP) leader Michael Nali.

If Mr. Iangalio does not get the country's second highest executive post, it will most likely go to his United Resources Party colleague, Ialibu-Pangia MP and Foreign Affairs Minister Roy Yaki.

Late yesterday, however, the People's Democratic Movement were reported to be considering a definite move to lay claim to the post, theirs by right as the largest party in Government.

Regional politics and the survival of Prime Minister Bill Skate and his 14-month-old coalition Government dictates that the deputy prime ministership goes to a Highlander.

Mr. Skate yesterday did not name a deputy prime minister or announce replacements for the ministers he sacked on Wednesday.

The sackings and the appointment of Brigadier General Jerry Singirok as the commander of PNG Defense Force also could not be effected because Governor General Sir Silas Atopare was in Manus and will not return until after the weekend.

Mr. Skate is the first Papuan Prime Minister and the Treasury and Planning portfolio, considered the third important job after the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, is also held by another Papuan, Alotau MP and People's Democratic Movement leader Iairo Lasaro.

Another important factor is that Mr. Skate is the first Prime Minister since independence to enjoy a near-total support from the Highlands bloc and he knows that the MPs from there will either make or break him.

According to the Tufi accord which formed the coalition government, the post of Deputy Prime Minister should be held by PDM.

However, Mr. Lasaro has gone on record saying he is happy as Treasurer and is not interested in the job.

Mr. Skate said on Wednesday after announcing the sacking of Mr. Nali and his party that he would appoint his deputy in two to three weeks time. In the meantime, he would be acting deputy prime minister.

He said he needed the time to consider the best man for the job and to allow the Government caucus -- his PNG First Party, PDM and URP -- to consult and agree on the replacement.

It is understood Mr. Skate leaves tomorrow to spend the weekend with his family in Cairns. If he does, there will be no one to act as acting Prime Minister.

While he has sacked Mr. Nali and the five other PPP ministers, technically they are still ministers until the Governor General revokes their appointment by signing the instruments decommissioning them.

The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Sir Dennis Young said yesterday "there was no rush" to announced the new appointments.

He said Governor General Sir Silas Atopare had to first sign the instruments decommissioning the sacked ministers.

Sir Silas would do this either on Sunday when he returns from Manus or on Monday morning, Sir Dennis said.

Mr. Skate would then announce the new ministers before they sign the instruments of their appointment before the Governor General at Government House.

The same would apply to sacked Defense Force commander Brig. Gen. Leo Nuia and his replacement, Brig. Gen. Singirok.

The new ministers are likely to be three PDM MPs John Kamb, Andrew Kumbakor and Pila Niningi and Mr. Iangalio. It is also understood Mr. Skate had not asked PPP Ministers Yauwe Riyong and Mathias Karani to resign and had offered them ministries as well.

The Prime Minister said on Wednesday he now had 61 MPs, made up of PNG First with 29, PDM 27 and URP 5.

While 61 is a clear majority, Mr. Skate will have problems mustering the required two-third or three-quarter absolute majority of 73 or 83 respectively in relation to important constitutional bills like the ones on VAT, ICAC and amendments relating to Bougainville Reconciliation Government.

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


By Isaac Nicholas and AAP

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 16, 1998 - The National)--- Sacked Deputy Prime Minister Michael Nali yesterday accused Prime Minister Bill Skate of running the affairs of the nation in a "generally irresponsible and whisky and rock-and-roll manner."

Mr. Nali told reporters that during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Skate had "very unceremoniously" sacked all 12 members of Mr. Nali's People's Progress Party (PPP) from the Government.

He launched a blistering attack on the Prime Minister at a press conference yesterday, saying any instability or loss of confidence in the Government was Mr. Skate's fault.

"It has always been caused by Skate himself, through his continuous changes of ministries and the generally irresponsible and whisky and rock 'n' roll manner in which he tries to manage the affairs of this nation," Mr. Nali said.

Mr. Nali said Mr. Skate was "the most inconsiderate, egoistic, irrational and erratic person" he had ever met in his political life.

The PPP had been dismissed from government because Mr. Skate had an unreasonable fear that current PPP members were assisting former prime minister and PPP leader Sir Julius Chan to make a political comeback, he said.

He also claimed that Mr. Skate dismissed the PPP because he wanted no opposition to the reappointment of Brigadier General Jerry Singirok as the commander of the PNG Defense Force.

Mr. Nali said the PPP would have opposed the appointment if its members had been present in cabinet.

Brig. Gen. Singirok's reappointment showed a disregard for the national constitution and the rule of law in PNG, he said.

"My party, the PPP, and I condemn this decision and call upon Mr. Singirok to decline the appointment and preserve what is left of his dignity and the good name of his family," Mr. Nali said.

Mr. Nali also said Mr. Skate had sacked the PPP because it had taken a strong position to ensure that any decision on proposed legislation on the development of PNG's gas resources took into full account the interests of land-owners and the overall good of PNG.

He said the party was taken by surprise by the Prime Minister's decision. But Mr. Nali said the party accepted the decision.

"We have no regrets. The political marriage has not been exactly a good one. We are happy, in fact relieved, that it has come to an end," he said.

He said the PPP would now sit on the "middle benches" of Parliament between the government and the opposition.

Mr. Nali said he had heard that the Prime Minister had opened the door welcoming PPP members who wished to remain with the Government.

Government sources said several back benchers are believed to have accepted the offer.

Sources said three of the sacked ministers -- Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Mathias Karani, Works Minister Yauwe Riyong and Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tukape Masani -- were considering remaining in the Government.

Mr. Nali was accompanied at the press conference by two of the sacked ministers, Titus Philemon and Philemon Embel.

Finance and Internal Revenue Minister Dibara Yagabo last night expressed his disappointment on what he called a "personal gutter attack" on the Prime Minister by Mr. Nali.

He said Mr. Nali should take a good look at his conduct as the Deputy Prime Minister before he criticized the Prime Minister.

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

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