Potape named Hela Governor in contentious PNG election

4:56 pm on 14 September 2016

The Provincial Assembly of Hela in Papua New Guinea has elected Francis Potape as its new governor.

The Komo-Magarima MP was elected by nine assembly members with the remaining four members all absent, including rival MP Philip Undialu and finance minister James Marape.

Francis Potape

Francis Potape Photo: supplied / Peter Kinjap

It's the latest installment in a power struggle for the Hela Governorship which intensified when the late Governor Anderson Agiru died in April.

PNG's Deputy Prime Minister Sir Leo Dion last month announced that the Koroba Lake-Kopiago MP, Mr Undialu was the legitimate Governor.

However, the assembly vote has gone against that and could set another provincial government on a collision course with the national government over a governor's appointment, following the West Sepik experience last year.

Mr Potape said his priority was to restore unity among leaders and the people in the province.

He said he also aimed to restore peace and good order amid the lawlessness in the province because tribal fighting continued to plague local communities.

But Mr Undialu said the assembly meeting was illegal, in breach of the leadership code and against the decision of the court.

He said recent court orders stated a time, date and venue for the meeting was to be announced by the Assembly Clerk but the clerk was in Port Moresby so couldn't authorise the meeting.

According to Mr Potape, Mr Undialu was informed of the meeting but refused to attend.

He has called for calm and challenged all leaders to work together with him in unity to progress Hela.

At the end of 2015, Mr Potape ousted the previous governor, Mr Agiru, in a no confidence vote which was subsequently overturned by the courts because due process was not followed.

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