Seven Pangu Pati members join the breakaway camp hoping to oust Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. Video: EMTV News
Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
All five MPs from Sandaun province have now joined Papua New Guinea’s breakaway camp at Port Moresby’s Laguna Hotel after the return of Sandaun Governor Tony Wouwou.
Wearing a Trukai Fun Run t-shirt, Wouwou appeared quite jovial as he was welcomed by other MPs into the leadership crisis camp.
And the breakaway camp now believe they have the numbers to oust Prime Minister Peter O’Neill as the rival groups shape up for the no-confidence vote this week.
About 1000 extra police are reportedly being deployed in the capital for tomorrow.
Scott Waide of EMTV News reported last night that during the past week Wouwou had been attacked and ridiculed on social media after he had initially appeared in an opposition news conference.
Then later – on the same day – Wouwou declared that he was a “diehard member” of O’Neill’s ruling People’s National Congress (PNC).
“We have the member for Vanimo Green, the member for Aitape-Lumi, the Member for Nuku and now we have the Governor,” former Defence Minister Solan Mirisim said in the news conference.
“I am here as the Member for Telefomin.”
Various MPs, including East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, defended Wouwou, saying he needed to seek consent from his people before officially moving to the opposition.
Vanimo-Green MP Belden Namah, who did a head count this afternoon, said the camp now had two-thirds of the governors in the country.
He added that it was a sizable figure that expressed how provinces were feeling, reported EMTV’s Waide.
Wouwou’s arrival this afternoon now adds one more MP to the camp, taking the total to 58. Fifty seven MPs are needed to defeat O’Neill’s government in the 111-member Haus of Parliament.
Earlier at the weekend, seven members of the Pangu Pati – PNG’s first and oldest political party founded by Sir Michael Somare – had joined the breakaway camp led by former Finance Minister James Marape who quit O’Neill’s government last month.
Soon after resigning from Pangu, the MPs were welcomed at Laguna by Marape and other leaders.
Not managed well
Speaking on their behalf, Central Governor Robert Agarobe said their stand was to change government leadership.
Morobe Governor Ginson Sinou said the country had not been managed well despite the vast mineral and forestry resources available.
Sinou said this was the time to stop the current leadership for the good of the nation.
Carmella Gware of Loop PNG reported that Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel said the PNC support “remains solid”.
Addressing the media on Saturday evening at the Crown Hotel, in the presence of Milne Bay Governor John Luke Crittin, Abel stressed the PNC’s teamwork “despite our good brothers leaving us”.
“We certainly take on board all those issues that were raised by our brothers and issues that were raised by myself,” he said.
“And I’m so thankful that the party and our Prime Minister has the understanding attitude that they have, we go forward together, we take on those issues, and as a team, we continue to respond to those issues.”
RNZ Pacific’s Johnny Blades reported opposition MPs were “quietly confident” that they had the momentum to remove O’Neill as his government “reels from a series of resignations”.
He said the opposition Laguna Hotel camp was offering an “open door” for any more government MPs who wished to join their bid to remove the prime minister.