PNG leader faces leadership test after govt members withdraw support

SYDNEY, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape is facing a threat to his leadership after several high-profile government members switched to the parliamentary opposition on Friday, PNG’s Post Courier newspaper reported.

Marape has been in power for just 18 months, after replacing long-serving leader Peter O’Neill in a similar process that involved prominent government ministers switching alliances.

PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil and Foreign Affairs Minister Patrick Pruaitch are among those who withdrew support for the government on Friday, the Post Courier said.

Opposition members used their numbers to suspend parliament on Friday and a motion of no confidence targeting the prime minister is being prepared, it said.

Marape has used his leadership to put some of the world’s biggest resources companies on notice over a perceived lack of wealth flowing from their projects back to communities.

Several large mining and oil and gas companies have operations in PNG, including Exxon Mobil Corp.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is due to meet Marape in PNG in coming weeks.

Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Michael Perry