PNG LAWMAKER DEFECTS TO GOVERNMENT RANKS

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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 4) –The government opposition in Papua New Guinea has been delivered a severe blow after Southern Highlands Province Governor Hami Yawari abandoned them and moved to the government ranks.

Mr Yawari said he has decided to defect to the government to "stabilize politics" and to support the government move the PNG-Queensland gas project forward.

He was seen as a prime mover in the opposition, using his influence to garner support among Southern Highlands MPs to back Ialibu-Pangia MP Peter O’Neill in his bid to overthrow Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare in a vote of no confidence.

His move is a huge setback for the Opposition but bolsters the PNG Party’s numbers in government from six to seven.

Only John Muingepe (Bulolo) and Jacob Jumugot (Manus) remain in the Opposition.

But Opposition Leader Peter O’Neill last night said Mr Yawari moved to government to prevent his provincial government from having its powers withdrawn.

Mr O’Neill accused the government of issuing threats to lure MPs back into government.

"I believe the government forced his hands and we believe the government has no legal right to suspend provincial governments," he said, adding despite Yawari’s defection, the majority of Opposition MP’s were still behind him and his cause.

"The gas project excuse is just a smokescreen. He has been threatened with suspension many months back."

Mr O’Neill said he does not believe young leaders from the province will be swayed by the move.

Commenting on his defection, Mr Yawari said: "Today, Hami Yawari is back in government to stabilize PNG politics."

The governor said he would not allow politics to jeopardize the gas project that would benefit the people of Southern Highlands and Papua New Guinea.

"I can’t be seen to be playing politics. I want to make sure that this project goes through," he said.

He said there was talks about PNG Party going into the Opposition camp but stressed that with his movement PNG Party would stabilize politics.

"I believe the government forced his hands and we believe the government has no legal right to suspend provincial governments," he said, adding despite Yawari’s defection, the majority of Opposition MP’s were still behind him and his cause.

"The gas project excuse is just a smokescreen. He has been threatened with suspension many months back." Mr O’Neill said he does not believe young leaders from the province will be swayed by the move.

Commenting on his defection, Mr Yawari said: "Today, Hami Yawari is back in government to stabilize PNG politics."

The governor said he would not allow politics to jeopardise the gas project that would benefit the people of Southern Highlands and Papua New Guinea.

"I can’t be seen to be playing politics. I want to make sure that this project goes through," he said.

He said there was talks about PNG Party going into the Opposition camp but stressed that with his movement PNG Party would stabilise politics.

November 5, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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