By JEFFREY ELAPA
HELA leaders have called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to confirm whether he has removed Francis Potape as Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Climate Change and LNG matters.
More than 50 landowner chairmen and community leaders had signed a three-page media statement, seeking an explanation and stating that the unceremonial stripping of powers less than two months after being appointed was the greatest mockery and an insult to the people of Hela, particularly the landowners.
They said that Potape’s appointment was cause for great joy for the people of Hela, but the sudden stripping of powers was unacceptable in the Huli culture, adding that it was disrespect for the leader and the people.
The leaders said that their MP was doing a great job in addressing landowner issues in the very period he was appointed with his knowledge of the people, the culture and their problems.
They said the prime minister’s actions, if true, were a slap in the face of the people of Komo-Margarima, the landowners of the lucrative carbon hydro project covering 86% of the 6.3 trillion cubic feet of gas allocated for the PNG LNG project.
“The actions of the prime minister will never be forgiven for the unfortunate political outcome of the National Alliance-led government if true,” the statement read.
“We are calling on the prime minister to immediately reinstate his ministerial portfolios so that the minister can ensure the LNG project becomes successful.”
They warned of more problems if the matter was not resolved amicably.
Police sources in Tari said pressure was mounting among the landowners after learning of the stripping of Potape’s ministerial portfolios.
A vehicle belonging to the developers was damaged soon after news of the stripping of Potape’s ministerial powers was made public.
While government printer Ken Kaiah had confirmed publishing the notice stripping Potape of his powers, the Komo-Margarima MP claimed he was not officially told of the changes.
Acting Prime Minister Don Polye, when contacted earlier, refused to comment, saying only the PM would respond and state his position on the matter.
Sir Michael, who was away in New York to address the United Nations on PNG’s contribution to the medium-term development goals, was on his way home and would, hopefully, shed light on the matter later this week.