admin's picture

By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 11, 1998 - The National/AAP)---Prime Minister Bill Skate yesterday challenged the Opposition to oust him if they could.

During a heated Question Time yesterday, Mr. Skate said if the Opposition had 58 members then there were procedures it could follow to secure a change of Government and leadership.

"You have 58 members, if you want to challenge me, count yours numbers, Than you can challenge me. My government is in control," he said while answering questions from Manus MP Stephen Pokawin.

Mr. Skate admitted he had discussed resigning the national leadership, as he was pressed by the Opposition to step aside or call a no-confidence motion against his own government.

Mr. Pokawin challenged Mr. Skate to step aside so a new Prime Minister could be chosen during the current sitting.

Alternatively, the Opposition urged Mr. Skate to call a motion of no-confidence in his own Government to show the people of PNG, the international community and investors that he still had the support to lead the country.

"The question about asking me to resign and appoint a new prime minister -- That is a question that on many occasions I have talked to my caucus (about), especially my party members," Mr. Skate said.

"That's a matter that my Government will decide at an appropriate time. If it feels that I should leave as the Prime Minister, I will then leave, but it is not for the Opposition to be pursuing the matter."

Mr. Skate counter-challenged the Opposition to demonstrate that they had the numbers in parliament to unseat him.

He said it was not up to him to prove that his Government supported him.

Mr. Skate also strongly denied plans to adjourn the Parliament to escape the upcoming no-confidence motion against his leadership in Government.

A no-confidence motion against Mr. Skate is expected in February, after the expiration of a "grace period" that prohibits the Opposition from calling such motions for 18 months after a government is elected.

Mr. Skate's Government has been criticized for its handling of the national economy, its reappointment of Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok as commander of the PNG Defense Force, and widespread changes in the appointments of ministers and senior bureaucrats.

Answering questions from New Ireland Governor Paul Tohian, the Prime Minister also denied that a large delegation would accompany him on his trips to Kuala Lumpur and China this month.

On the Kuala Lumpur trip, the Prime Minister said he was taking with him two Government backbenchers and the travel cost was not K 300,000 (US$ 141,900) as mentioned by Mr. Tohian.

Mr. Skate said the trip to China was funded by the Chinese Government and only Foreign Affairs Minister Roy Yaki would accompany him on that trip.

Meanwhile, it is believed that Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Iairo Lasaro will remain as leader of the People's Democratic Movement (PDM), which is the second biggest coalition partner in the Government.

There has been widespread speculation here that Fisheries Minister Sir Mekere Morauta would challenge Mr. Lasaro for the PDM leadership at a party meeting today. But a senior source in the PDM told AAP yesterday that an immediate challenge to Mr. Lasaro would not occur.

The source said, however, that a challenge was still possible, perhaps next year.

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

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment