The National – Thursday, December 9, 2010
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare’s move to spring a surprise reshuffle is a calculated move to have a trusted team in place should he step aside when a leadership tribunal is set up.
Wabag MP Sam Abal is a trusted man with integrity and is very close to the prime minister.
His elevation to the deputy prime minister’s post will ensure he takes over as acting prime minister if and when Sir Michael steps aside.
Abal flew out with the prime minister to the 11th mining conference in Sydney, where he was pulled aside by Sir Michael and Arthur Somare who notified him of his new post as deputy.
Political observers noted that the appointment of Abal as deputy prime minister was critical as he is the man Sir Michael trust will head the government as acting prime minister in an event that the prime minister is sidelined, particularly as he will be expected to lead the government into the all-important 2012 elections.
Abal, together with the prime minister, flew back on the Falcon to Port Moresby after the opening of the Sydney mining conference.
The Wabag MP did not travel on Tuesday to Kokopo with Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet to be sworn in as new attorney-general and justice minister by the governor-general who was on holidays in his Viviran village in East New Britain.
Sir Arnold is another personal friend of the Somares, who is held in high esteem because of his former life as the chief justice of the country.
His appointment comes at a time when the prime minister’s fate rests with the public prosecutor who, after due process and taking into account all evidence before him, may advice the chief justice to set up a leadership tribunal.
If that were to happen, it is expected that by operation of the law, the prime minister would automatically step aside.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, the prime minister called in Attorney-General and Justice Minister Ano Pala and informed him that he was making cabinet changes and for him to take over agriculture and livestock.
Pala, according to sources, told the prime minister that it was his prerogative to make changes and that he welcomed the new posting.
Pala, the Rigo MP who most recently was elected NA deputy leader for Southern region, is a systems man and will let processes of government take their course.
Many observers believed that his “transfer” was because of a couple of very crucial decisions, not of his making but from his predecessors.
The K15.5 million to settle court decision ruling in favour of Madang businessman Peter Yama is one of them.
Yama has been fighting a court battle and the Supreme Court made the decision in his favour.
Pala, who is expected to uphold the integrity of the bench, followed processes to honour the court decision. That, most probably, has led to his ouster.
The other reshuffle that the prime minister will announce in due course is the new Agriculture and Livestock Minister Pala, Industrial Relations Minister Mark Mapaikai and new Internal Security Minister Puri Ruing.
Dumped are Mul-Baiyer MP Sani Rambi and Bogia MP John Hickey who has asked to be removed for health reasons.
Kandep MP Don Polye, who is expected to do a direct swap with his Engan brother, Abal, will be moved to foreign affairs, trade and immigration leaving Works and Transport to the latter.
Polye’s ouster as deputy prime minister stems from the events of mid-year leading to a dangerous split up of government ranks, particularly that of the ruling National Alliance, which, according to observers, was orchestrated in part by Polye.
He cannot be trusted “politically”, given the events leading up to the notice of motion against the prime minister.
Rambi is a staunch supporter of Polye and his dumping came as no surprise to many people.
The prime minister is also not happy with Rambi over decisions which led to the suspension of the police commissioner last month.