The National, Tuesday, May 17, 2011
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
THE ruling National Alliance appears split over the much talked-about party interim leadership issue.
Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal, who was appointed by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, had dismissed a push by certain members of the NA party for the interim leadership issue to be taken before the party caucus.
The National understood that there was a series of meetings held last week by the NA party on the interim leadership issue but insiders said that had been thrown back to the regional groups to decide.
Party sources said the interim leadership “is for an interim political head of NA to call party
meetings while the party leader is away”.
Sources said Abal was appointed to head the government but the NA party needed an interim political leader to call caucus meetings.
“There is no vacancy and the party constitution is very explicit on the leadership issue. But this is an interim arrangement and consistent with the constitution,” the source said.
The Southern region and New Guinea Islands were believed to have met last week and had resolved to back Aitape-Lumi MP Patrick Pruaitch if the interim leadership issue goes before the party caucus.
The Momase bloc, under Pruaitch, had decided to defer the meeting, preferring to wait for the return of Sir Michael. The highlands bloc, which was yet to meet, was in a dilemma with Don Polye as deputy leader and the job of acting prime minister vested in fellow Engan and highlands bloc member Abal.
Last week, Polye dismissed media reports as “sensationalising the whole leadership issue” but the fact remained that there had been a number of meetings held by the NA.
“It is absolutely not good and inhuman to talk about the leadership issue when the party leader and prime minister is undergoing medical attention,” Abal told the media yesterday.
Abal, who was there with Attorney-General and Justice Minister Sir Arnold Amet, said the prime minister, like all other officers of government, “is entitled to medical leave and Sir Michael has accrued leave entitlements which he is taking”.
He said there was too much speculation by the media, saying: “There will be no election of an interim party leader.
“We are talking about pulling the carpet under his (prime minister) feet while he is undergoing medical operations and recovery,” Abal said.
He said it was not good, under PNG customs and traditions, to talk about somebody “who is down with health conditions”.
“I call on the leaders to abstain from talking about the party leadership issue. Let us give it a break for some time.
“I came in as the choice of the prime minister to lead government. I am doing just that and I will do it with my colleagues in government.
“On the leadership issue, I do not think it is timely for the decision to be made.
“Let us give it a break and allow the prime minister and NA party leader to recover.”