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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 26) – The National Alliance party convention, which begins in Port Moresby tomorrow, holds the key to whether the party goes into the 2007 Papua New Guinea general elections as a united team.

Treasurer Bart Philemon – who is challenging Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare for the party leadership – said yesterday the party could split up, depending on how its 428 delegates voted on the parliamentary leadership issue this Friday.

"If I don’t succeed, it opens up a number of options," Philemon said. He said one of the options he was considering was forming a new political party.

"Yes, definitely. That was one of the options that we are looking at, getting like-minded leaders together," Philemon said. "I just want to work together with people who understand how to approach the challenges in the future without having to fight one another."

Philemon said he would not resign from his ministerial post immediately if he lost the leadership vote on Friday. Instead, he would be telling the party that they should remain united until the 2007 general elections and then go their separate ways. Asked who he would be leaving National Alliance party with, Philemon declined to give details.

However, it had been rumored for sometime that a new political grouping was in the making, which could include leaders like Philemon, the Papua New Guinea party headed by former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta and several ministers and parties in the present government.

Sir Michael has welcomed the challenge, saying he had encouraged Philemon to put his hand up and allow the parliamentary wing to decide and then seek endorsement from the convention. But Sir Michael said, "I have resolutions from the regional party branches in the Highlands, Islands and Momase saying they want me to lead the party to the elections. "If the parliamentary wing wishes to change the leadership of the party, then that would be the opportune time to do so".

April 27, 2006

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