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By Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 5) – Papua New Guinea Inter-Government Relations Minister Sir Peter Barter [who represents the province of Madang in parliament] has offered to take over from Mr. James Yali as the governor of Madang.

He said he was prepared to leave the Cabinet to do so but only if at least 20 of the 29 provincial assembly members agree to support him.

"Upon receipt of such a letter containing 20 or more signatures from members, I have no other alternative but to resign and make myself available," he said in a statement yesterday.

He said he did not want to be entangled in a political mess.

There is strong speculation that Mr. Yali, who is being held at Beon Jail, will be stripped of the governorship following his recent conviction for raping his sister-in-law about a year ago. The Madang National Court is scheduled to hand down Yali’s sentence on January 17.

Under the Constitution, a person is barred from being a Member of Parliament if he or she is sentenced to death or jailed for more than nine months.

Sir Peter said other Members of Parliament who were also members of the provincial assembly were free to contest the post.

He said they should be given adequate notice of a meeting of the assembly so that they could resign from the ministry if they so wished to stand for election.

"For myself, I again state that if it is the true wish of the Madang Assembly members for me to return as governor, I need 20 or more members to sign a statement that they will support me to be re-elected," Barter said. "Despite the fact that I am a regional member, I must be elected."

Sir Peter noted that Usino Bundi Member of Parliament Peter Yama had declared his interest in the post and suggested that he used the new assembly meeting rather than pursue a "legally doubtful course".

When contacted by The National, Mr. Yama declined to comment, saying he was mourning the death of his brother, Sir William Skate.

"I cannot talk about Madang politics until the body of Sir William is laid to rest," he said.

Sir Peter said he would be glad to lead Madang in the last 18 months leading up to the 2007 general election and to put things back into order in the province.

"I accept some of the responsibility of what is happening in the province for stepping aside (as governor) in the first place."

Sir Peter also commented on Mr. Yali’s move to chair an assembly meeting on Friday, which passed a PGK52 million [US$17.6 million] provincial budget and suspended Deputy Governor Bunag Kiup.

"The law is clear and the law should be used and followed for the good of the people. At the moment, unscrupulous politicians see the law as a plaything and the assembly as their football," he said.

He said Mr. Yali ceased to be a Member of Parliament when he was convicted of a major offence.

"There is no need to wait for sentencing. When James Yali ceased to be a parliament member, he automatically vacated the office of the provincial governor. There is no need for a vote of no confidence or to await sentencing. The Attorney-General has advised that James Yali cannot act as governor while he is in Beon Gaol. He is not readily available," Sir Peter said.

January 6, 2006

The National:

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