29 Apr 2006

Leadership challenge in Papua New Guinea delayed

11:51 am on 29 April 2006

A challenge to Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's leadership of the National Alliance Party will be discussed following the 2007 general election.

The challenge by Treasurer, Bart Philemon follows a Cabinet reshuffle by Sir Michael Somare earlier this month in which he stripped Mr Philemon of the finance portfolio.

The motion for a challenge was to be put by Mr Philemon supporter at the party's convention in Port Moresby yesterday.

But the motion did not show at the convention and nor did Mr Philemon, sparking speculation of a widening rift between the prime minister and his treasurer.

Instead of the challenge motion, another motion was put to amend the party constitution enabling the party to elect its new leader after the next election.

Mr Philemon has won wide praise for bringing government finances under tighter control and restoring business confidence in the financial management of the country.

The PNG Chamber of Commerce and other business interests have questioned the wisdom of stripping Mr Philemon of finance.

Sir Michael was tipped by many MPs to win if a challenge went ahead but if he did win, Mr Philemon was set to leave the party and take other key members with him.