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The National, Wednesday July 20th, 2016


THE Government’s numbers are “increasing every day” in the lead up to Friday’s vote of no confidence, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says.
He said yesterday that 81 MPs were in the Government camp in Alotau and the number was likely to increase.
O’Neill said this following Opposition claims that they were confident of ousting him and forming a new government.
“Our Government numbers are increasing every day,” O’Neill told The National from Alotau.
“The solid numbers of Government MPs remains at 81 and is likely to increase as we move into Parliament as some members are attending to emergency commitments.
“Our strategy has not changed.”
O’Neill said the ruling coalition was confident of thwarting the Opposition’s bid despite the defection by East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare to the Opposition.
He (O’Neill) said Sir Michael’s move came as “no surprise” as he was a signatory to the no-confidence motion.
“He has never really worked with the Government from day one and we respect his decision.
“We will comply with court orders and allow the Opposition to test their numbers.”
Meanwhile, People’s National Congress deputy leader  and Fisheries Minister Mao Zeming described an Opposition’s apology to Sir Michael as lacking honesty.
He said the apology by Opposition Leader Don Polye, Pangu Pati leader Sam Basil and PNG Party leader Belden Namah made them look like “schoolboys”.
“If Namah, Polye and Basil were serious about apologising, they would have done this long before and not three days from a vote of no confidence,” Zeming said.
“What we have seen is all for show. In politics, you have to stand behind the decisions that you made in good faith.
“You don’t flip-flop on one of the biggest decisions you have ever made just so you can crawl up to a leader to get  votes.
“Namah, Polye and Basil joined with Peter O’Neill to form the government in 2011 for the very good reason that Sir Michael had been absent from his post for too long.
“A decision had to be made.
“The affairs of the nation have moved on and even after the 2012 election, the National Alliance Party joined the government and most people moved on.
“Grand Chief Sir Michael is father of the nation and while we do not agree on all political issues, we respect his position in our history.
Meanwhile yesterday, New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan pledged his support for the Opposition.
He told Opposition MPs during a reunion with fellow former prime ministers Sir Michael and Sir Mekere Morauta that he would be encouraging his son, Namatanai MP and Mining Minister Byron Chan, who is camping with Government MPs in Alotau, to vote on “conscience”.