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Despite changes, O’Neill denies lack of confidence in ministers

By Gorethy Kenneth

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 29, 2012) – There will be more ministerial reshuffles soon, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced yesterday.

He said this in light of his decision to remove financial powers from Treasurer Don Pomb Polye on Monday.

Before flying to Vanimo yesterday, Mr. O’Neill explained his decision to strip the Finance portfolio from Mr. Polye, leaving him with the Treasury and Border powers instead.

"The ministerial reshuffle will happen soon… there is no lack of confidence in any of my Ministers but I just want to make some changes," he said.

Mr. O’Neill reiterated that the removal of the Finance portfolio from Mr. Polye was confirmed by a Government Gazette dated February 27, 2012 and that the decision was in light of complaints in relation to various landowner funds as per the State’s responsibilities and commitments under the Oil and Gas Act and Umbrella Benefit Sharing Agreement, as well as the License-based Benefit Sharing Agreement.

[PIR editor's note: Meanwhile, supporters of Don Polye have called on O'Neill to return the Finance portfolio to the minister, calling the removal of Polye from the ministry "uncalled [for], untimely, unbrotherly, and destructive." T.H.E. Party member John Moksy, of Western Highlands Province, claims "hidden motives" right before the 2012 election played a part in Polye’s removal.]

Pressure has been mounting on Mr. O’Neill to intervene in the stand-off, which has seen hundreds of people who claim to be landowners from the resource-rich Southern Highlands province, converge on Vulupindi Haus in Port Moresby over the past week demanding that they be paid K290 million [US$137.1 million] in LNG monies owed by the Government.

However, it is understood the monies are Infrastructure Development Grants, which according to law should be used to fund the building of infrastructure in Southern Highlands and cannot be paid out as cash to recipients.

Mr. O’Neill said that he wanted to sort all this out before they all go to polls and that he didn’t want any flags in his Government.

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