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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 6) – Papua New Guinea Treasurer Bart Philemon has been sacked from Cabinet.

Kandap Member of Parliament and Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Don Polye is the new Deputy Prime Minister and Angoram Member of Parliament Arthur Somare has been reinstated as the Minister for State Enterprise, Communication and Information.

In a reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare yesterday, others sacked were Defence Minister Mathew Gubag and Correctional Services Minister Posi Menai. New ministers are Andrew Kumbakor — Housing and Urban Development, Martin Aini — Defence and Sam Abal was appointed the Inter-Government Relations Minister replacing Melchoir Pep who was moved to Correctional Services. The other sacked ministers are Aitimeng Buhupe and Brian Pulayasi, who were ministers without portfolios.

Sir Michael said; "I have made the changes to my Cabinet with the consideration that these will best suit the evolving circumstances within PNG today. These changes built around a core team are necessary to convert our hard earned gains achieved during this term into substantive returns and benefits for the people of Papua New Guinea in the remote rural and urban communicates. We need team players who are able to network and bring about pragmatic and innovative approaches to government to ignite these changes and also to meet the new challenges PNG will face in the future."

Sir Michael said his government was laying the foundations to allow a dynamic new period in the growth of the young economy and for his government’s next term in office. He said today, his government understood better how the business of government should be run.

The Prime Minister said his government managed 13 coalition parties during the term of this Parliament. The changes announced are:

Don Polye - Deputy Prime Minister, Transport and Civil Aviation; Sir Rabbie Namaliu Treasury; Sir Moi Avei – Petroleum; Sinai Brown - Public service and acting Minister for Lands; Melchoir Pep - Correctional & Administrative Services; Martin Aini - Defence; Mark Mapakai - Higher Education; Sam Abal - Inter-Government Relations Andrew Kumbakor - Housing & Urban Development; Arthur Somare - State Enterprise, Communication and Information; and Roy Biyama - Minister for State Assisting the Prime Minister.

[PIR editor’s note: Arthur Somare, the prime minister’s son, reportedly was forced to resign as PNG's planning minister in March over allegations of financial impropriety.]

The Opposition has described the Cabinet reshuffle as nothing more than a self-serving political window dressing.

Opposition leader Peter O’Neill said in a statement yesterday the "cosmetic changes" are deviously plotted to retrench the National Alliance’s hold on power and improve its 2007 general elections prospects.

He also said the changes announced by the Prime Minister Sir Michael were not in the best interest of the nation and the coalition partners.

Mr O’Neill said: "It is a vicious smack in the face for other coalition partners, and certainly a contemptuous rejection, once again, of the undertakings of the Kokopo Accord entered into at the time of the formation of the Government four years ago."

The Opposition Leader said he did not see how changes brought about in the reshuffle could help in addressing pressing national issues Papua New Guinea faced at present. Mr O’Neill said the frequent Cabinet changes did not address law and order situations, deteriorating social services, such as in health and education and worker related issues.

"This is so, whilst funding of district development programs is being attended to in adhoc manner, despite Opposition’s efforts in introducing special legislations to strengthen this important sector," Mr O’Neill said.

He said the much talked about Green revolution was laughable just as its widely published Medium Term Development Strategies having been a complete flop.

Mr O’Neill said: "Papua New Guinea was in a serious dilemma, because Sir Michael Somare, as Prime Minister was not in control of the country. The Prime Minister is acting like a robot on a string controlled by family members and a small political clique within the National Alliance Party."

He attributed this to lack of deliverance of policies and services. Mr O’Neill bemoaned the demise of the former treasurer and Lae MP Bart Philemon who had presided over the country’s finances and was widely credited for the nation’s economic stability. He also said the biggest causality was the former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei who was high standing.

July 7, 2006

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