LOBBYING HEATS UP FOR PNG DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S POST

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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 13, 1999 – The National)---Lobbying for the post of deputy prime minister intensified over the weekend as political parties in the current coalition government held closed-door meetings to discuss their candidates.

Last week's developments, which saw the formation of a new political party, People's National Alliance (PNA), have forced Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta to call an urgent meeting of the People's Democratic Movement (PDM) caucus on Wednesday, to decide on the vacant deputy prime minister's post.

The Pangu Pati led by Chris Haiveta held an urgent caucus meeting on Thursday to make changes to the party’s structure to adapt to the new developments. Another major coalition partner, the People's Progress Party, is also believed to have met to discuss the vacancy.

Sir Mekere, who is PDM leader, will consult his caucus on the party's position in relation to the deputy prime minister's post. PDM is the largest party in the current coalition.

The National understands that three names have already been submitted to Sir Mekere for the vacant post. They are Privatization Minister Vincent Auali and Petroleum Minister Tommy Tomscoll (both PDM) and Pangu leader Mr. Haiveta.

According to sources, the National Alliance has not put forward a candidate but is also lobbying for the post.

Over the weekend, Sir Mekere ordered PDM general secretary Dr. Jacob Jumogot to organize the caucus meeting on Wednesday.

Dr. Jumogot said yesterday that the meeting has been called to discuss the position of deputy prime minister, which had become vacant after the sacking of John Pundari and his Advance PNG Party from Government last Wednesday.

He said in a statement that political instability was the reason for the sacking, which led to other minor political parties merging in order to consolidate their numerical strength and lobby for the deputy prime ministership.

He said political parties in the government are having their own series of crucial closed-door meetings and the names of several top contenders have been speculated on as lobbying intensifies.

"PDM's position is very clear. The meeting has been called to decide the party's position on the post of deputy prime minister," Dr. Jumogot said.

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

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