7 Jan 2003

Harry Tong dumped as opposition and party leader

6:26 pm on 7 January 2003

In a bid to win next month's election for President, Kiribati's main opposition party has dumped Dr Harry Tong as its leader.

Brian Orme, Dr Tong's adviser, says the MPs are now backing the MP for North Tabiteuea, Taberannang Timeon to go up against the sitting President Teburoro Tito in the vote on February 25th.

Before last year's elections Dr Tong had been regarded as the most likely candidate to unseat Mr Tito.

President Tito's party fared badly in the November poll, but Brian Orme says he has since gained support in the presidency race and to try and stop his re-election, the opposition has chosen a new leader and candidate.

He says Dr Tong will now go back to his constitutency to determine his political future.

"Rather than split their vote, Dr Tong's party decided to put one serious candidate, up against Tito. Dr Tong is holding a discussion no matter what, with his own constituency, to see what role they want him to play. It's still early days yet, and the smoke hasn't cleared. I think it will take another 2 or 3 days till Dr Tong decides what part he will play."

Brian Orme adviser to Dr Tong.