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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 27, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online/Abridged)---Papua New Guinea’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party says it will not involve the Defense Force in the June elections.

Prime Minister and party leader Sir Mekere Morauta gave the assurance when he said two top changes made to the force command were to provide "circuit-breakers" and "prevent further political interference."

He was commenting for the first time on the political maneuverings surrounding the Papua New Guinea Defense Force.

The Ministry of Defense also change hands, from Kilroy Genia to Mathias Karani.

Colonel Ben Norrie and Colonel Joe Kewa were replaced by Lt. Col Jeffrey Wiri as Chief of Operations and Lt. Col. Paul Mai as Chief of Personnel, respectively.

"The Moem mutiny came as a shock. It showed conclusively factionalism and a susceptibility to the same outside influences remained," Sir Mekere said.

"If those weaknesses remained, they could be exploited again, this time in the election campaign. No one, least of all loyal soldiers, would want that.

"Therefore, there was a need to provide some circuit-breakers to strengthen the command structure and prevent further political interference. That is what we have done."

Sir Mekere said the changes were made on recommendations from the Commander and the Defense Council -- contrary to information from sources near the Defense top brass.

Sir Mekere promised to see Commander Brigadier General Peter Ilau serve his term in office.

Sir Mekere said the government was entitled to make changes, which were proper and should be expected at any time.

"Command structure is weak. We are strengthening it. We want to make sure that politicians do not get involved.

"You explain to me Moem Barracks, university (unrest) and Murray Barracks."

He said this symbolized infiltration by political parties and outside forces and that the new move would insulate the army from outside influence.

"It is an irony but what I am doing is protecting the Defense Force."

On the suggestion that the defense maneuvering was part of a plot within his own circle of political advisors to engineer his downfall, Sir Mekere said his party was in total support of him as prime minister. He looked forward to becoming prime minister again, he said.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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