By HELEN TARAWA
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill is stepping down “to maintain stability” and handing over the position to former prime minister and New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan.
After the resignation of seven more cabinet ministers to join the Opposition camp with eight other MPs from the Government coalition over the weekend, O’Neill said he would be visiting Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae “in the coming days” to tender his resignation.
He invited the ministers and MPs who had defected from the government coalition in the past few weeks to return now that the leadership had changed.
“I will be stepping down as prime minister in the coming days to pave the way for a new government and leadership,” he said.
“I want to thank all the PNC leaders for giving me a strong undivided support over the past eight years.
“It has not been easy to satisfy everybody. But I think that is the issue we have.
“It is sad to see that a government mandated by the people which got the invitation from the governor-general to form the government had been put through this level of stress. But it is necessary for us to maintain stability. And with the experience of Sir Julius Chan and Paias Wingti and other leaders, (it) will make our nation stronger.
“We know that there are many likeminded leaders who are now in various camps who want to provide a change in the country.
“We are giving them this opportunity.”
He said with the experience and caliber of Sir Julius, “and the team here led by Sam Basil, we will give that support”.
“We respect the wishes of the leaders and the wishes of our people,” O’Neill said.
Sir Julius thanked O’Neill and the coalition leaders for having confidence in him.
“This Government has done a lot. We will maintain the things that you have started and do more than that. We are not just a caretaker government; we want to do something new,” he said.
“I don’t intend to be a lame duck. We are going to move this country and cause a lot of changes in the economy (definitely have a look at the mining industry) and how best to get all the tiers of the government to function properly.
“I’m a good friend but a terrible enemy. I appeal to all the people of PNG to give us a chance.
“The strength of government is not about numbers but transition of powers from one government to another with tranquility and smoothness. I suppose it’s the respect they are giving me, because I happen to be the oldest animal in this term.”
He praised O’Neill for stepping down “for the love of this country”.
By HELEN TARAWA