Chief shifts support

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The National, Tuesday July 19th, 2016


FORMER National Alliance leader and founding prime minister Sir Michael Somare has broken ranks with the Government coalition partner to join the Opposition’s bid to overthrow Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a vote of no confidence on Friday.
Sir Michael, however, was not well and did not speak to journalists during the media conference at the Opposition’s camp at Laguna Hotel in Waigani, Port Moresby.
The East Sepik governor was welcomed by Opposition Leader Don Polye and party leaders Ben Micah (People’s Progress Party), Belden Namah (PNG Party), Sam Basil (Pangu Pati), Dr Allan Marat (Melanesian Liberal Party) and Kerenga Kua (National Party) who praised him for his bold move to split from the National Alliance.
Sir Michael is the only NA member so far to shift allegiance as the political horse-trading intensifies in the lead-up to the crucial vote in Parliament on Friday.
It is understood the other NA members are with party leader and Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch at the Government camp in Alotau, Milne Bay. The party has eight MPs.
Sir Michael is the second former prime minister and serving MP to support the Opposition following New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan’s move with PPP last Friday.
Namah, who was Opposition leader in August 2011 when Sir Michael was overthrown as prime minister and replaced by O’Neill, apologised profusely, as did Basil.
Polye, who served as a senior minister in the former NA government led by Sir Michael, heaped praise on his former leader.
“Thank you for blessing us with your presence. It’s a wonderful blessing,” he said.
“When you have some of our great leaders and pioneers that engineered the formation of a country called Papua New Guinea, like Sir Michael and Sir Julius Chan, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Mekere Morauta and Paias Wingti – in the presence of us young leaders – it adds a lot of value.
“It raises the profile of the new leadership. It raises credibility.
“But it also shows another very important thing – it reflects the fact that the guys on the other side, the so-called Government side, are not doing their jobs properly.
“They are not running the Government in the course that was charted in 1975 and even before then. It shows that they (former prime ministers) are concerned at how the country is being run.
“We admire the leadership of the Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare – the way he led us from Independence till now.”