WAIKO REPLACES PUNDARI AS PNG FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER, WAI GETS CABINET

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 1, 2001 -- The National)---The newly formed Pan Melanesian Congress (PMC) has been included in the Cabinet in a move by the ruling People's Democratic Movement party to establish a possible partnership for the 2002 national elections.

PMC parliamentary leader Simeon Wai (Karimui-Nomane) was brought in as Agriculture and Livestock Minister in another Cabinet change effected by Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta yesterday.

In other changes, Dr. John Waiko has been moved from Education to Foreign Affairs, the ministry that fell vacant following the sacking of John Pundari last week over the asylum seekers issue.

Muki Taranupi has been moved from Agriculture and Livestock to Education, while Mathias Karani swaps his Provincial and Local-level Government Affairs portfolio with Jimson Sauk's police.

The Prime Minister said the reshuffle, the second in as many weeks, was necessitated by Mr. Pundari's removal for failing to follow the proper procedures in relation to the asylum seekers issue, and for revealing sensitive information to the media prematurely.

Mr. Wai, who was made PMC leader only a month ago, has Cabinet experience, having served as Communications Minister under Bill Skate.

Political sources said yesterday that the PDM and PMC had struck up an alliance with the aim of forming the next government after the 2002 elections next July.

While the PMC may be a political infant with only a handful of ordinary politicians, sources said its future looked promising with a number of "heavyweights" expected to announce their support and allegiance to the party soon.

One such individual holds a prominent government job and continues to do so in collaboration with and with the full blessing of the PDM; thus the inclusion of Mr. Wai in the Cabinet, the sources said without naming the official.

The party only recently appointed an interim executive headed by former Chimbu politician Peter Kuman, a PDM strongman in the Highlands.

Mr. Wai's appointment augers well for the PMC, which has in recent weeks been trying to find a firm footing in a political arena already crowded with new, revamped or resurrected parties as the 2002 electoral race heats up.

It also coincides with the party's two-day policy summit, which begins at the Lamana Hotel conference room in Port Moresby today.

As far as political parties and preparations for the 2002 elections go, the PMC is the first political party to hold a policy summit to gauge views from government and private sector experts and members of the public on major policy issues.

Addresses and papers will be presented on economic, social and political issues by people from a cross-section of the community.

Party general secretary Philip Wori said yesterday that a policy summit was the most logical and responsible thing to organize to educate its executives, members and supporters about how best to device policies for the party before the elections.

He said the party's main focus would be on devising and setting in place appropriate and effective policies on critical issues such as health, education, youth, women and law and order, which affect very much the people's welfare.

Economic issues would also be in the forefront during the summit, Mr. Wori said.

Mr. Wai will give the keynote address at the summit after his swearing-in at Government House this morning.

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

Provided by Vikki John VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au" target="_blank">(VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

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