PNC MPs will stay: O’Neill

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PEOPLE’S National Congress (PNC) Party leader Peter O’Neill yesterday claimed that all his 22 Members of Parliament (MPs) will remain with the party.
That will make PNC the biggest Opposition party in Parliament, with the position of seven other MPs who did not vote for James Marape as prime minister in June still unclear.
However, O’Neill’s claim that his party’s 22 MPs will remain loyal is doubtful as the positions of the eight ministers who are PNC members are also unclear.
Housing and Urban Development Minister Justin Tkatchenko, a PNC member, told The National yesterday: “I had made a commitment to support Marape as prime minister (PM) of Papua New Guinea.
“My commitment as Justin Tkatchenko Member for Moresby South is that I am supporting and will continue to support and commit to the current PM for the next two and a half years.”
But, Marape had said on Tuesday: “Any MP and ministers from the PNC who wish to remain in Government are encouraged to do so and team up with another political party.
“Any ministers from PNC who choose to remain in Government are encouraged to remain. But those who feel offended with this gesture of bringing in certain factions of the Opposition into the Government and wants to go with the PNC are (also) encouraged to do so.
“The removal of PNC is part of the cleaning process under the new Government. We want to do better and we have fought for a change of government.”
Should Marape stick to his words and action, Tkatchenko and seven minister aligned to PNC must quit their party to keep their Cabinet posts.
If the eight ministers remain in PNC, Marape is likely to drop them from his Cabinet, and do a major reshuffle to appoint new ministers.
O’Neill said all party members had resolved to remain with PNC including the eight ministers at a caucus meeting on Tuesday night.
“We met with all 22 MPs and resolved to remain with PNC. The ministerial appointments are the prerogative of the sitting prime minister,” he added.
The eight ministers from PNC are Works and Implementation Michael Nali, Immigration and Border Security Petrus Thomas, Labour and Industrial Relations Alfred Manase, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Soroi Eoe, Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology Nick Kuman, Public Service Westly Nukundj, Health and HIV/AIDS Elias Kapavore and Tkatchenko.
Again contradicting O’Neill, Tkatchenko said: “PNC had a caucus meeting in which all 22 (ministers) turned up … and they passed a resolution that we will support Marape right through to the next election.
“Whatever happens I will allow the prime minister to make the judgment on that. It’s about continuity, good governance and getting on with the job,” he said.
Tkatchenko said: “My ministry has done much work. We have already made very good inroads. I have no intention nor do I want to be part of this play-mongering, it is totally unnecessary. Like all the other PNC members, we made a commitment to support Marape as prime minister,” he stressed.
On Tuesday, Opposition MPs joined the Government following the appointment of Kavieng MP Ian Ling-Stuckey as Treasurer.
Opposition leader Patrick Pruaitch said in a statement that four of them were National Alliance (NA) members, except for Northern Governor Gary Juffa who is from the Peoples Movement for Change party.
The NA members were Namatanai MP Walter Schnaubelt, East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, North Fly MP James Donald and Ling-Stuckey.