But highlands MPs vote in acting PM as deputy party leader
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
THE National Alliance party has suspended Wabag MP Sam Abal for two months, although the decision will not affect his position as acting prime minister, The National reports.
In another twist to the NA leadership tussle, its highlands bloc parliamentary wing met last night and appointed Abal as its leader in place of Kandep MP Don Polye.
Hours earlier, the NA national executive had announced Abal's suspension for "wilfully acting in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the party".
The notice of his suspension was served on him by party president Simon Kaiwi and secretary-general Stephen Pokawin.
The suspension affects Abal's bid to contest the party leadership at next month's national convention in Minj, Western Highlands.
The party leadership is up for grabs because the current leader, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, cannot re-contest it.
In the suspension notice, Pokawin said the decision was reached after careful consideration of the correspondence regarding the concerns raised by members of the party on the position of deputy leader (highlands) which arose after the sacking of Kandep MP Don Polye as cabinet minister.
The notice further read: "And based on the general apprehension of instability in the party, caused by your actions to force highlands NA MPs to remove Polye as deputy leader at all cost, the (party's) national executive committee is of the opinion that as a member of NA, you have persistently and wilfully acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the party."
Pokawin said a committee meeting on Monday had resolved to suspend Abal as a member of the NA for two months, from yesterday to Sept 20.
Abal is told he is "to cease to interfere with the affairs of the National Alliance party, in particular, as it relates to the issue of deputy parliamentary leader highlands, until the matters raised by the resolutions of the Enga provincial branch and the highlands regional branch of the party is fully dealt with according to the party constitution.
"You are informed that the national executive committee shall meet on Friday, Aug 12, to further deliberate on the matter."
Kaiwi, in a separate letter to Abal, said the acting prime minister had requested the party president to call a meeting last Thursday or Friday to discuss the NA highlands leadership issue.
"By the way our party is structured, the issue of the letter is essentially an internal party issue.
"Presently, the position of deputy leader highlands is not vacant," Kaiwi said in his letter.
He said under Polye's leadership, the party had grown to be a major political party in the highlands region.
"Unless it can be demonstrated that, as deputy leader, Polye has conducted himself in a manner that is prejudicial to the interest of the party, the party needs to give credit where it is due.
"As acting prime minister, you dismissed Polye as a cabinet minister. You have the authority to do that.
"However, your actions since then to have the NA highlands MPs further remove Polye as deputy party leader and, for you to take over, raises the issue of whether such action is in the interest of NA as a political institution."
Kaiwi said the party was structured in such a way that the parliamentary wing, or its regional caucuses, was a recognised body within the party.
He said the parliamentary leader was responsible for the parliamentary wing and assisted by four deputy leaders who were responsible for each region.
Kaiwi said the authority to call for regional meetings to deal with such issues was vested with deputy leaders and, if they failed to convene meetings, then clause 30 of the NA constitution could be invoked for a special meeting to be called to deal with the matter.
He claimed that the party's committee had been informed that some signatures of MPs had been secured under duress.
"This is a serious allegation which, we hope, is unsubstantiated and, most importantly, that it does not become part of the way National Alliance conducts its businesses," Kaiwi said.
Last night at Airways Hotel, 11 of the 12 NA Highlands MPs resolved to elect Abal as the new deputy parliamentary leader in the absence of Polye.
Besides Abal, the others present were Speaker Jeffery Nape, Agriculture Minister Philip Kikala (Lagaip-Porgera), Western Highlands Governor Tom Olga, Minister for Labour Sani Rambi (Mul-Baiyer), Minister for Lands Lucas Dekena, Wapenamanda MP Miki Kaeok, Civil Aviation and Transport Minister Benjamin Poponawa (Tambul-Nebilyer), Lufa MP Yawa Silupa, Education Minister James Marape (Tari-Pori) and North Waghi MP Benjamin Mul.
Abal said in a statement the NA highlands parliamentary wing ignored his suspension notice because it was legally flawed under the party constitution.
He said it was flawed because any disciplinary process, including suspension or expulsion, must firstly be lodged by the parliamentary wing.
Secondly, it was a mandatory requirement that the national executive committee must include all members including Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to decide such a suspension.