PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill is expected to face a vote of no confidence as early as next week. File photo/ AFP
Three more ministers resigned from the Papua New Guinea government on Friday — leaving Peter O’Neill’s eight-year premiership hanging by a thread.
O’Neill — who is expected to face a vote of no confidence as early as next week — suffered the loss of his defence, health and forest ministers adding to an already long list of high-profile defections.
His People’s National Congress Party now has a small majority in parliament and he has faced repeated closed-door requests from party allies to step down, officials said.
“He refused,” said health minister and long-time ally Puka Temu, who told reporters that he was “dissatisfied with the manner and way in which the prime minister has been administering his leadership in running Papua New Guinea.”
“We are calling on the prime minister to step down,” he said, “today.”
O’Neill’s long tenure in office has been marred by rampant corruption, high levels of crime and large-scale investments that ran up public debt but showed little benefit for ordinary Papua New Guineans.
The country has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. A little over one in ten Papua New Guineans have access to reliable electricity.
The defections were led by finance minister James Marape, who resigned after O’Neill announced a $13 billion LNG project with France’s Total and US firm ExxonMobil last month.
Marape cited the need for more local “participation in our gas, oil sector” and mining industry.
O’Neill has been accused of micromanaging and of looking out for his own interests.
“Papua New Guinea is too big for one person to run. It’s not for one man’s business,” said defence minister Solan Mirisim.
“Papua New Guinea is sinking, we need a good captain.”
It is estimated that O’Neill’s opponents have 44 of the 56 votes needed to force the motion of no confidence.
The political tumult has called into question the future of the multi-billion-dollar LNG project and has raised fears that infighting may fuel public disturbances.
On Thursday police announced that about 1,000 officers would be deployed around Port Moresby from next Monday, in anticipation of a no-confidence vote.
The roads leading to Parliament House are expected to be cordoned off when parliament resumes on May 7.
Deputy Police Commissioner Jim Andrews said the deployment was “to deter opportunists from taking advantage and creating law and order issues.”
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