By ISAAC NICHOLAS
PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare intends to increase the size of his Cabinet, and has promised to reshuffle his Cabinet after the March sitting of Parliament which starts today.
But Planning Minister Paul Tiensten, the man who sets the Government’s agenda on the floor of Parliament, brushed aside suggestions the increase in Cabinet’s size and the reshuffle has anything to do with the threat of a vote of no-confidence.
Mr Tiensten, who is Leader of Government Business, said the Government was intact and was not distracted by the Opposition’s mooted vote of no-confidence motion.
Parliament sits at 2 o’clock this afternoon and high on the agenda is the Bill to increase the number of ministries from 28 to 31, the motion to have nominated women in Parliament and amendments to the Organic Law Governments to retain the provincial seats after 2012.
“We have the executive arm and we will go into Parliament to run the business of the day of putting through legislative amendments and policy statements,” Mr Tiensten said after a special National Executive Council meeting last night.
He said if the motion (of no-confidence) was introduced, the Private Members Committee would sit down and determine the merits and demerits of the motion.
He said the committee would determine whether it (motion) was of national importance or if it was parochial.
“There is a process before it can be entertained by Parliament but we are ready to defeat any motion as the Government’s strength is intact,” Mr Tiensten said.
Mr Tiensten himself has been the subject of a push by some governors from his New Guinea Islands region to have him removed as minister, but the Prime Minister has kept his faith in him.
In a statement released earlier yesterday, the Prime Minister said he was holding back the announcement of a reshuffle until the re-introduction of the Bill to increase the number of ministries from 28 to 31.
This is not catered for in the 2010 Budget, and the Government will blow a hole in the budget to fund the expansion of Cabinet.
But the Prime Minister said the expansion had to happen after 35 years.
“We have had 28 ministers since 1975 when our population was less than half of what it is today. A total of 35 years have lapsed and responsibilities have greatly increased.
“Due to the political stability our growth since 2002 is almost five times more. We have to better manage governance with the level of growth taking place in the country today.
“Currently, many ministers are taking care of more than one portfolio and there is a need to share some of these responsibilities.
“In the proposed changes I will also be giving vice ministers more responsibilities and functions so that they can complement the work of the ministers.
“Experience has shown that ministers also have not been able to properly utilise vice-ministers.”