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Rebels were to support ouster of prime minister

By Jeffrey Elapa PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 27, 2010) - The six defectors of the ruling National Alliance party’s Southern region have returned to the fold, saying they are still loyal to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his coalition government.

And, yesterday, the party offered the olive branch to the rebels’ leaders Sir Puka Temu (Rigo MP), Milne Bay Governor Luke Crittin and Charles Abel (Alotau) to follow suit.

New NA Southern region leader Mark Maipakai said the door was still open for the trio, that they had not been sacked by the party.

At a Parliament House media press conference yesterday, the rebel group claimed that their defection last week to the opposition to support a planned motion of no-confidence in Sir Michael was an internal NA party matter, and they had not resigned from the party.

Their spokesman and Ijivitari MP, David Arore, said they had decided to return and support Sir Michael and their new regional leader Maipakai.

"We moved out as a group and now we have come back. We have not resigned and, therefore, we are still members of the party," he said.

Those who returned, apart from Arore, were Moresby Northeast MP Andrew Mald, Central Governor Alphonse Moroi, Goilala MP Mathew Poia and Gulf Governor Pitom Titus Bombom.

South Fly MP Sali Subam was named but was not present to confirm his return.

Maipakai said the regional split in the party was over the Temu leadership but the group had reunited and was intact under his leadership.

Before the split, the Southern region had 11 MPs in the NA-led coalition but his had been reduced to eight with Temu, Crittin and Abel still with the opposition.

Immediately after the media conference, Maipakai announced that they had a meeting with Sir Michael to iron out their differences and sought ministries in an anticipated cabinet reshuffle.

Earlier, the group had written an apology letter which was hand-delivered to the prime minister.

Maipakai said the Southern bloc remained committed to the prime minister until the 2012 elections.

Maipakai was elected regional leader and Mald his deputy during a regional party meeting last Thursday.

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