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PNG’S SOMARE IN MALAYSIA FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT Denies rumors of dire health as no confidence move looms

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 24, 2009) – With a vote of no confidence looming, a legal challenge on the Integrity Law pending and Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s health being questioned, Papuan leaders appear to be bracing to take a shot at the top post if an opportunity arises.

In the meantime though, they have resolved to continue to support the National Alliance led government until 2012 but the writing was all over the wall in Milne Bay.

A political aide said on the sidelines that Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu was ready to be the prime minister if the opportunity arose and was trying to get his Southern blockconsolidated through this forum.

At the first Papuan Parliamentarians Development Forum last Saturday at the Alotau International Hotel in Alotau, a strong sense of unity was evident among those members present. Thirteen of the 24 Papuan Members who attended the forum include Sir Puka, Milne Bay Governor John Luke Crittin who was also elected chairman, Culture and Tourism Minister and Acting Works, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Charles Abel, Labour and Industrial Relations Minister Mark Maipaka, Oro Governor Suckling Tamanabe, Kerema MP Pitom Bombom, South Fly MP Sali Subam, Sohe MP Anthony Nene, Ijivitari MP David Arore, Rigo MP and Vice Minister for Mining Ano Pala and Central Governor Alphonse Moroi,

Those who did not attend passed their regrets but obvious absentees were Opposition MPs including Western Governor Bob Danaya, Kairuku Hiri MP Paru Aihi, Gulf Governor Havila Kavo, NCD Governor Powes Parkop, Moresby Northwest MP Sir Mekere Morauta, and others.

[PIR editor’s note: according to the following related story in todays edition of the PNG Post-Courier, Prime Minister Michael Somare was undergoing medical treatment in Malaysia: ]

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare is alive and well in Malaysia.

There were wild rumours circulating on Friday saying that he had died but his daughter Betha Somare confirmed that he was a bit sick and was in Malaysia seeking medical attention.

Many Government insiders blamed the Opposition for starting this rumour, saying that they were responsible for spreading what was untrue.

Sir Michael also called the radio talk show host Roger Hau’ofa direct from Malaysia and said he was well and looking forward to playing a round of golf during the day.

Mrs. Somare said the rumour was being circulated by people who had "nothing better to do" but keep attacking the Prime Minister and the Government. "It’s something different to play politics but to bring yourself to that level (and spread false rumours) is really not good," she said. "It is really in poor taste."

Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma also confirmed on Friday that the Prime Minister was okay in Malaysia and that the rumours were being spread by "evil people".

"Our Prime Minister is alive and well in Malaysia," Mr. Duma said. "He is one of those unique leaders in the country and God will not allow the Prime Minister to die in a foreign country." "He was chosen by God to be a leader and he will protect him wherever he (Prime Minister) is."

Newsrooms in Port Moresby were flooded with calls from the public wanting to know if the rumour was true.

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