Balancing act

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PRIME Minister James Marape says he had to perform a political balancing act to restore power and confidence in his leadership, and to continue to govern the nation.
It started with continuing to communicate with the MPs who had defected to the Opposition on Nov 13, informing them of a “restructured Cabinet” he was planning, and new ideas focused on “the next generation of leaders to take PNG into the 2020s”.
He named a new Cabinet line-up last weekend including five first-time ministers, and reshuffling ministries among senior MPs in the coalition government he leads, balancing “competing” party and regional interests.
“The competing interests representing party interest, regional interest and many dynamics (have) to be mixed in a blend that ensures we don’t compromise our national performance agenda,” he said.
“I want leaders to think and focus on the next generation. We structured this cabinet to focus on how the country moves in the 2020s.
“This Cabinet line-up can bring sanity into our government and ensure we move in the right space.”
Only 13 of the 33 ministers retained the portfolios they held before Nov 13.
Marape explained that the lineup was different from the “three-to-one” structure often used in forming Cabinet.
“This line-up has (little) to do with politics but (more about) where we feel contributions can be made in respect to the talent pool we have,” he said.
“A little bit of giveaway also only in politics was the fact that we needed to bring numbers (MPs) back from (the Opposition camp),” he said.
“I sent messages to all the MPs (in the Opposition camp). We had a more targeted approach. We wanted those thinking in congruence to our mindset to come back to us.
“And I’m thankful by the grace of God that a few leaders who think like us came back to ensure we structure this government.”
One of them, Kompiam-Ambum MP Sir John Pundari who was first to return to the Government side in Parliament last Wednesday, has been appointed Finance and Rural Development Minister.
“All ministries are equal and must drive the Government’s policy to provide development to our people,” he said.
Sir John, also the Liberal Party leader, thanked Marape for allocating two ministries (Immigrations and Border Security Minister is Westley Nukundj) to his party despite both defecting to the Opposition then returning.
Sir John did not see his Cabinet appointment as a reward for returning to the Government.
“We have good reasons why we move back to the government.
“We had differences, misunderstanding. But the prime minister (called), humbled himself and told me that we can work together.”