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By Kevin Ricketts

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (October 13, 2001 – The Age)---Brigadier General Karl Marlpo, whose tenure as acting commander of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force was marked by two soldiers’ riots and a mutiny, has been edged into retirement.

The new and permanent commander is Captain Peter Ilau, who had been chief of staff at the Murray Barracks Headquarters in Port Moresby since General Marlpo took extended leave after a mutiny in March.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta announced yesterday that Captain Ilau had been promoted to brigadier general, together with taking command of the Defense Force.

Defense analysts said General Ilau’s long-awaited appointment would be welcomed by the army rank and file and PNG’s friends, especially Australia.

General Ilau has risen through the ranks via the Defense Force’s maritime wing, which operates a small patrol boat flotilla. His assistant while chief of staff has been another maritime wing associate, Captain Aloias Tom. Both have done extensive duty on loan or with the Royal Australian Navy.

A defense analyst said: "Peter Ilau has done much to bring back the morale, discipline and organization of the defense force since he took over as chief of staff."

"He will be a breath of fresh air as commander, both to his own troops and to those he will work with in allied defense forces."

Sir Mekere said, "Brigadier General Ilau has served as operations commander and chief of staff in recent years. "He has performed the responsibilities of commander on a number of occasions while the former acting commander was overseas."

Port Moresby was bracing for possible new civil unrest yesterday after opposition MPs announced that "the biggest demonstration in Papua New Guinea’s history" would be held on Monday.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Bill Skate promised that 50,000 to 100,000 people would protest against the government’s dismissal of the elected leaders of the National Capital Development Commission, Port Moresby’s city council.

"I appeal to the people of Port Moresby that I, William Jack Skate, will head the biggest demonstration ever seen in the history of Papua New Guinea and Port Moresby as from Monday," he told a news conference at Parliament House yesterday.

"We ask the police, if they believe in the constitution of this country, not to provoke us and they should leave us alone and we will walk in peace.

"If the police want to belt us or shoot at us, they must take full responsibility."

For additional reports from The Age, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Age.

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