Ipatas downplays talk he could be PNG's next leader

6:33 am on 15 January 2019

A senior Papua New Guinea MP has downplayed suggestions he is a candidate to be the next prime minister.

Papua New Guinea's parliament.

Papua New Guinea's parliament. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The parliamentary opposition is planning for a vote of no-confidence against prime minister Peter O'Neill early next month.

Local media has identified veteran MP and governor of Enga province, Sir Peter Ipatas, as a potential replacement.

However Sir Peter said he was committed to supporting Mr O'Neill and his coalition government.

He said ahead of a vote there was usually a lot of lobbying and negotiating between MPs, but claimed he hadn't discussed becoming prime minister with anybody

"At this point in time nothing of that sort has taken place. So you know, I'm still very relatively close to the prime minister, and that's it. You know, I'm trying to ensure my province is developed. I've give a hundred percent of my time to the province, and so I'm focussed on that," he said.

Papua New Guinea national election 2017.

Papua New Guinea national election 2017. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Sir Peter, who was first elected to the national parliament as Enga governor in 1997, said his focus was on developing his province.

The veteran politician recently handed over leadership of the People's Party to Jiwaka Governor William Tongap.

"I'm governor of a province, and at the moment I have a number of big ticket item projects that I want to concentrate on delivering.

"I can't be in parliament forever. I've been there a long time, and I'm trying to complete a lot of major infrastructure in the province. And of course the major issue of law and order has always been my concern. Those are the issues that I'm working (on) with the government."

Sir Peter admitted the national government's cash-flow problems have had a negative impact throughout the country.

"We have issues that we have with the government, but that doesn't mean we want a change of prime minister. That may not be the real answer to all our problems in the country," he explained.

"I think the idea is that we have to all work together to solve these issues that are facing the country."

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