The National – Wednesday, June 22, 2011
A MAJOR cabinet reshuffle, announced by Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal last night, was done with election 2012 firmly in mind.
It places the ruling National Alliance party in charge of the three most important positions – that of the prime minister, deputy prime minister and finance and treasury with the general election 12 months away.
With Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on extended sick leave and was unlikely to return to the job, Abal had used the reshuffle to place the ruling National Alliance firmly in charge leading into next year’s general election.
The reshuffle saw the leader of major coalition partner, the People’s National Congress’ Peter O’Neill dumped from finance and treasury and the re-entry of Momase NA deputy leader Patrick Pruaitch to his old job.
O’Neill had been consoled with Abal’s ministry of works and transport.
O’Neill is the second coalition leader to be so treated.
Two weeks ago, the leader of the second biggest party in government, United Resources Party’s William Duma, was dumped from the petroleum and energy ministry. The ministry was yesterday given to Francis Potape, who was purportedly sacked from URP last week.
Foreign affairs, trade and immigration, vacated by the decommissioning of NA highlands deputy Don Polye, goes to former agriculture and livestock minister Ano Pala (NA southern). Pala’s old job had been given to Lagaip-Porgera MP Philip Kikala (NA highlands).
Potape’s old post as minister assisting the PM on administrative matters had gone to Alotau MP Charles Abel (NA southern), who voluntarily left the culture and tourism ministry to support Sir Puka Temu’s failed bid to oust Sir Michael last year.
Abal expressed full confidence in his new ministers, saying he believed that with his new team, stability and cohesion within government would be sustained including consistency in policy implementation.
“I have full confidence in the new ministerial line-up,” he said in a statement last night.
“I congratulate all of them and expect their full cooperation and dedication to the service of our people,” he said.
The URP is a divided house with a Duma faction and another faction supporting Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru.
The Duma faction yesterday also announced the sacking of Agiru but, in the reshuffle, it would appear Abal is siding with the Agiru faction in recognising Potape.
Still, the URP is one ministry short (Potape’s old job).
There was intense lobbying ever since the sacking of Duma and Polye for replacements but Abal was understood to have been consolidating his position and, particularly, strategising on how to place his party on a firm footing for the elections.
The fallout today will be noisiest from Abal’s own highlands region.
The Duma and Polye sackings had brought loud protests from Western Highlands and Enga.
Abal had added Southern Highlands with the demotion yesterday of PNC leader and Ialibu-Pangia MP O’Neill from the coveted finance and treasury ministry.