22 Jun 2006

Philemon loses PNG party tussle

3:36 pm on 22 June 2006

A political split is widening in Papua New Guinea between the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, and the Treasurer, Bart Philemon, in the lead-up to next year's general election.

Mr Philemon has been sacked as a deputy leader of the National Alliance party in which he was seen as the likely successor to Sir Michael.

The Momase regional grouping of National Alliance MPs yesterday voted Mr Philemon out as one of the party's four deputy leaders representing regions.

Following recent political jousting with Sir Michael, Mr Philemon is expected to form his own party to take into the 2007 mid-year elections, with key National Alliance members tipped to join him.

Mr Philemon has won wide praise for orchestrating an economic turnaround, bringing government finances under tighter control and restoring business confidence in the government's financial management.

The National Alliance Party has 24 MPs in the coalition government that sits in the 109-member parliament.