20 May 2004

Former Cabinet minister leads PNG opposition

10:25 am on 20 May 2004

Papua New Guinea's opposition coalition has announced its new leader.

Peter O'Neill, a former senior partner in government, accepted his role as leader of the Opposition at a meeting of the People's National Congress party yesterday.

His appointment came the day after he and his party were dumped from the governing coalition.

The Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare made a major cabinet reshuffle and dropped seven ministers, including Mr O'Neil, and the deputy prime minister, Moses Maladina.

Mr O'Neill says the next step for the Opposition is to reorganise itself and provide a credible alternative government.

The Prime Minister has been moving to shield himself from votes of no-confidence, but Mr O'Neill is refusing to rule out such a motion against the prime minister in the future.

Mr O'Neill says the Opposition is committed to achieving stability in PNG governance "but not at any price".

Sir Michael Somare has been trying to amend the constitution to guarantee a new government 36 months in office.

This week he dropped plans to push ahead with a parliamentary bill on the issue, and instead charged a commission with reviewing the constitution.