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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 3) – Former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister and National Capital District Regional Member of Parliament, Sir William Skate, is clinging to life in Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital.

Sir William was in a critical condition when flown from Port Moresby on Friday night by medical evacuation aircraft and had remained in that condition since, a spokesman for the Wesley Hospital in Brisbane said last night.

It was reported on EMTV last night that the controversial leader was "clinically dead." Later, spokesman Susuve Laumaea said very close relatives, including the MP’s adopted brothers and children, had decided that Sir William should be kept going with the aid of life support systems in the hospital.

They had a meeting in Port Moresby after hearing from the MP’s wife, Lady Rarua Skate.

"They have conveyed their decision to Lady Rarua, to keep him on life support until whatever happens,’’ Mr Laumaea said.

Mr Laumaea said the family meeting decided on keeping the support system going in "the hope that there will be a change for the better."

Sir William was medically evacuated to Brisbane at 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Eve from Port Moresby arriving in Brisbane around 5:30 a.m. He was flown there because of the PNG Nurses strike with doctors — over-worked and under-stress — threatening to walk off their jobs if the nurses’ strike was not resolved.

The three-time NCD Regional MP was supposed to be medivaced on Friday but there was some haggling over fees with Wesley Hospital requiring a AU$200,000 medical fee up front.

It is understood the National Parliament Services provided the money for the medical fee and the medical evacuation cost for Niugini Air Service to fly Sir William accompanied by Lady Rarua down to Brisbane.

Mr Laumaea said the family gathering also called on Sir William’s supporters to "keep calm’’. They asked the public to respect their wish for privacy, acutely aware of Sir William’s following among the grassroots.

On one side of the ledger, Skate is credited with a major role in bringing peace to Bougainville after 15 years of civil war, by virtue of his personal ties with leaders there. On the other side, he is renowned for his part in a recording which purported to show him boasting he had been the godfather of crime in Port Moresby in the past.

He is the offspring of an Australian father and a PNG mother but had a difficult early life, virtually living on the streets of Moresby squatter settlements.

He has a history of poor health, primarily high blood pressure and heart problems, and has been in and out of hospitals in Port Moresby and Queensland in recent years. He reportedly suffered a stroke while in the intensive care unit of the Port Moresby General Hospital several days ago.

He trained in accountancy at the University of Technology and was a key manager of a major savings and loans society in PNG, along with a future leader of the Bougainville breakaway forces, Martin Miriori.

January 3, 2005

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