PNG's Pangu Pati lives another day as seven MPs remain

12:29 pm on 10 May 2019

Six members of Papua New Guinea's Pangu Pati who resigned en masse from the party, with all but one of its other nine MPs, have now returned to the party.

Sam Basil

Sam Basil Photo: Facebook

Divisions within PNG's oldest political party have been building for months after Pangu's leader, Finance Minister Sam Basil, fell out with the party executive.

Last week Sam Basil announced that the party's MPs had moved to another government coalition partner, the Melanesian Alliance.

However, six MPs yesterday confirmed they were returning to the Pangu fold, to be led by Morobe Governor Ginson Saonu, who did not resign earlier in the month.

Mr Saonu said Pangu is an institution which must be maintained as it is connected to PNG's history.

According to him, Pangu Pati's remaining MPs have reunited with the party's executive.

It comes as the government of prime minister Peter O'Neill has begun to fracture with a series of defections from his People's National Congress party.

Mr Saonu acknowledged that the executive's issues with Mr Basil were unfortunate, but that repeated attempts at resolution had failed.

The executive had fallen out with the former Pangu leader after he controversially brought the party from opposition into Mr O'Neill's government in late 2017.

It's unclear whether the Pangu Pati will stay in the government coalition, as the opposition has lodged a parliamentary motion to hold a vote of no confidence against the prime minister in the coming weeks.

However, Mr Saonu told RNZ Pacific last month that it was important for Pangu's MPs to respect the voters who elected the party at the 2017 election.

In that election, Mr Basil won eleven seats on and brought the party out of the political wilderness - several other MPs soon joined its ranks.

But Pangu had campaigned strongly on a bid to remove Peter O'Neill from power. It was a particularly popular platform in Morobe province where Pangu won most of the seats.

The six MPs staying in Pangu with the Morobe Governor are Central Governor Robert Agarobe, Lae MP John Rosso, Huon Gulf's Ross Seymour, Goilala MP William Samb, Finschaffen's Renbo Paita and Tewai-Siassi's Doctor Kobby Bomareo.

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