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Monday, August 13, 2007

Sir Michael Somare accused Australian Government of trying to interfere in PNG's election process.

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has accused the Australian Government of trying to interfere in his country’s election process.

He said yesterday he would raise the issue at the next Pacific Islands Forum meeting. The 71-year-old is expected to be re-elected as prime minister for a second consecutive term today when the new Parliament meets for the first time. Sir Michael’s latest accusations against Australia do not augur well for improved relations with Canberra during his prime ministership.

“I think there seems to be somehow some kind of interference,” he told reporters yesterday. “We will be looking at that issue and I’m taking it up in the forum with Australia and New Zealand at my level as still the chairman of the Pacific Forum. “We know the area where we believe the democratic process must continue in a developing country.

“Australia has sometimes had a tendency of having to say we will provide this, provide that and also make sure peace and stability is created.”

The National Alliance (NA) Party leader said Australian commentators sometimes created an impression PNG would break down very shortly and become a failed state.

During PNG’s election, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called on the Somare Government to release a PNG Defence Force report into the escape of wanted Australian lawyer Julian Moti to the Solomons on a PNG military flight last October.

A leaked copy of the report shows it points the finger of blame at Sir Michael and recommends he be charged. Sir Michael has consistently denied sanctioning the flight for Moti, who is wanted in Australia to face child sex charges.

NA president Simon Kaiwi has also alleged Australian interference during PNG’s elections, saying the Australian Government and media were not happy with NA’s success. He accused Can-berra of using political pawns within PNG to try to determine the political leadership.

Canberra had heavily influenced elections in East Timor and the demise of former prime minister Mari Alkatiri, he said. “Australia wants a leader in Papua New Guinea that can say ‘how high’ when they order him to jump,” Mr Kaiwi said.

NA won 27 seats and claims to have more than 50 other small party MPs and independents on side to easily form a coalition government in the 109-member parliament.

A rival political camp trying to oust Sir Michael has sought a Supreme Court ruling on whether he has the right to contest the top post again. The camp, led by former prime ministers Sir Julius Chan and Sir Mekere Morauta and former treasurer Bart Philemon, claimed that under the NA constitution, Sir Michael had to step down because he had led the party for two consecutive terms.

NA officials said the party had breached none of its rules in choosing a leader.

Source: Post-courier online.

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