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Department heads determine ‘majority rules’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 20, 2011) – In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the uncertainty in the public service as to who was in charge in the past seven days was resolved yesterday – by the heads of departments themselves.

They will work with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s administration.

Chief secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc called the meeting at which 34 out of the 37 secretaries of national departments attended.

Zurenuoc later told a media briefing that all had agreed unanimously to work with the government led by O’Neill.

Zurenuoc said: "We cannot sit down and wait. The situation is that the court recognised the Somare faction which does not have the numbers.

"In our system of government the majority rules. The majority is on one side – the O’Neill-Namah side.

"No court has found that the action of parliament in electing the prime minister is illegal. Nobody has challenged the legality of Nape. Nobody has challenged the legality of parliament’s actions.

"There has been a presumption of legality all along. Why waste time? We need to get services out to the people."

Respective secretaries were then asked to report to their respective ministers and to work with them.

Zurenuoc said the public servant’s decision stemmed from the unchallenged National Gazette No.376 of Dec 14 which appointed O’Neill as prime minister and Beldan Namah as his deputy.

It also decommissioned the 20 Somare-appointed ministers and appointed 33 ministers in the O’Neill cabinet.

He said this had gone unchallenged as were other decisions of parliament including the suspension of the governor-general and the acting appointment of Speaker Jeffrey Nape as acting Governor-General who performed the swearing-in ceremony of the O’Neill ministry in parliament.

Zurenuoc was flanked by Defence Force Commander Brig-Gen Francis Agwi, Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga, Personnel Management secretary John Kali and acting Finance secretary Stephen Gibson.

Agwi said the force had been monitoring the political situation closely last week and had put in certain contingency plans in place in the event of a call-out to assist the civil authority.

Kulunga said the police force was not divided and that investigations had been launched into the involvement of police in the political stand-off last week.

He said Fred Yakasa who led some policemen in blocking the entrance to government house last week, was not sacked.

Zurenuoc later reported the meeting to O’Neill.

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