CREATION OF NEW PNG POLITICAL PARTY COULD RESULT IN NO CONFIDENCE VOTE AGAINST PM SKATE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 7, 1999 - Radio Australia)---A new political party is about to be launched in Papua New Guinea.

Radio Australia correspondent Richard Dinnen reports that the group could further complicate the Government's attempts to stave off a no-confidence vote when Parliament reconvenes in July.

"The Papua New Guinea Parliament has been suspended for five months now, and won't sit until July.

"One of the first items of business will almost certainly be a vote of no confidence against Bill Skate's Government.

"The Prime Minister now faces a rare threat in Westminster style politics -- he could be brought down by his own Speaker of Parliament John Pundari. Mr. Pundari is forming a new political party, and supporters say it could hold the balance of power.

"With rumors rife that one Government coalition partner, the PDM, is ready to desert the Government, the emergence of a new party creates a more volatile landscape in the lead-up to the no confidence vote.

" Richard Dinnen, Port Moresby."

POWER PLAY BY PNG PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PUNDARI

MADANG, Papua New Guinea (May 7, 1999 – The National)---National Parliament Speaker John Pundari yesterday confirmed speculation that he has a group in place that can play a major role in a change of government.

"Yes, I have a group," Mr. Pundari said on arrival here to about 1,000 people who had gathered at Madang Airport to welcome home their regional MP Jim Kas.

Mr. Pundari was accompanied by West Sepik Governor John Tekwie, Chimbu Governor Simeon Wai, Robert Sakias (Telefomin MP), Henry Smith (Goroka), Eddy Saweni (Aitape-Lumi) and Opis Papo (Lagaip-Porgera).

"This is part of the group and you are likely to see more later," Mr. Pundari said.

He was taking Governor Kas home following his release from jail by the Supreme Court in Port Moresby last Friday.

At a later gathering at the Governor's residence, Mr. Pundari announced that he will officially launch his party in Port Moresby on May 26. The National understands that the party will be known as the PNG Liberal Party.

Mr. Kas was released from jail last week after a successful appeal in the Supreme Court. He was in jail for five months after being jailed by the National Court for offences relating to interfering with an aircraft here.

Speculation has been rife over the past couple of weeks that Mr. Pundari was putting together a group to form a new government in the event that a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Bill Skate is successful in the next sitting of Parliament.

Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi has made it clear that the Opposition does not have the numbers to move such a vote, adding that any change would have to come from within.

Mr. Pundari started his power play last month by stepping in and solving the dispute between Mr. Wai and Fr. Louis Ambane over the governorship following the latter's election.

Yesterday, he did not disclose the names of his group but hinted that they will be announced soon.

Mr. Pundari said the country needed honest and genuine leaders with the interest of the people at heart and not those who amass wealth using their position of authority and influence at the expense of the ordinary grassroots.

"The decline of the kina and the general economic woes creating havoc on the lives of ordinary people in itself calls for a change of leadership," he said.

West Sepik Governor Mr. Tekwie said leaders must put aside their differences and unite to salvage this resource rich nation from its economic woes.

"The responsibility is in the hands of us, the elected leaders of Parliament, and we must take corrective measures urgently to save the sinking kina and put the nation on the road to prosperity," he said.

Former MP Sir Angmai Bilas also echoed the same message.

"We need a change in leadership in the face of economic problems the country is facing and the lack of action," he said.

Sir Angmai said it was sad to see a promising country being plagued by such problems because of bad political leadership.

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

PNG PARLIAMENT SPEAKER PUNDARI CONFIRMS NEW PARTY

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 7, 1999 - The National)---Parliament Speaker John Pundari is reported to have confirmed in Madang yesterday that he intends to form a new political party.

Mr. Pundari and Madang Governor Jim Kas were given a grand welcome by more than 1,000 people.

One eyewitness said the Speaker confirmed speculation that he is forming a new political group. He did not name the party or the number of MPs in the group.

Mr. Pundari said at Jacksons Airport on his arrival from Madang that he would not discuss anything with the media until he had sorted things out.

He is expected to issue a statement today. He will launch the party on May 26 at a venue yet to be set.

Mr. Pundari was accompanied to Madang by Mr. Kas, Chimbu Governor Simeon Wai, Sandaun Governor John Tekwie, Lagaip-Porgera MP Opis Papo, Telefomin MP Robert Sakias and Goroka MP Henry Smith.

Mr. Pundari, a strong Christian, has been critical of national leaders for lacking moral and ethical essentials.

Mr. Pundari has made strong references in all his public statements that leaders must always fear God, not only in hearing the Word but actually practicing it and living in the way that God desires, so that their activities both in public and private are accountable and true before God.

Mr. Pundari is understood to be backed by MPs from the Highlands region, which is the power base of the current Skate-Lasaro Government.

Prime Minister Bill Skate on Wednesday reportedly said he is confident of staying in power until 2002, when announcing that Oro Governor Sylvanus Siembo had joined his PNG First Party.

Mr. Skate said his party has 34 members and the Peoples Democratic Movement has 24 men.

The Opposition is continuing with its public forums. It is meeting in Lae and holding public forums with the people in the Mamose region.

Leader Bernard Narokobi said last week that the Opposition has 36 MPs. He said seven months is a long break for MPs and as leaders they have a duty to the people to travel, and to gather their views on the problems and issues affecting the country.

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