PNG PRIME MINISTER BILL SKATE: "I'M IN CONTROL"

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 7, 1999 - Post Courier)---Prime Minister Bill Skate declared yesterday that he was in control of the country after sacking four of his ministers and brought in "the best team to solve PNG's economic crisis."

In a move which splits his major coalition partner, Peoples Democratic Movement, Mr. Skate sacked the party's new leader, Sir Mekere Morauta and three other ministers in favor of his one-time deputy prime minister, Chris Haiveta and three other Pangu stalwarts.

Mr. Haiveta will be appointed Deputy Prime Minister within two weeks following a decision by the incumbent Iairo Lasaro to relinquish the second highest chief executive post in government.

Mr. Skate sacked Mr. Haiveta in 1997 after accusing him and the then Agriculture Minister Andrew Baing, of trying to topple his government following the broadcast of the infamous Mujo Sefa tapes on Australian Broadcasting Corporation television.

Following the swearing-in ceremony at Government House, Mr. Skate admitted that he had sacked Mr. Haiveta for personal reasons and for his own political survival.

He and Mr. Haiveta said they had resolved their political differences and were committed to working together as a team up to the year 2002 when PNG goes to its first elections in the new millennium.

The PDM ministers sacked along with Sir Mekere who was Fisheries Minister were Vincent Auali (Transport), Mao Zeming (Housing) and Herowa Agiwa (Environment and Conservation).

Those appointed to succeed them are: Mr. Haiveta (Fisheries), Samson Napo (Housing), Michael Ogio (Environment and Conservation) and Sir Pita Lus (Transport).

Another Pangu MP, Robert Nagle, was appointed Minister for Justice replacing Simon Kaumi from the PNG First party, who now takes over the vacated Rural Development ministry.

Mr. Skate accused Sir Mekere of not using his vast experience to help fix the nation's economy, which was now in deep trouble.

He described Mr. Haiveta as one of the best leaders in PNG who will help solve the economic crisis.

"I am in control,'' Mr. Skate declared when addressing a news conference immediately after the swearing-in of the new ministers.

"I am taking my country to become better than what it was before.''

Hours after that, he issued another statement calling on four of his own PNG First party MPs to resign or be sacked for disloyalty.

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