PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill’s ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) Party has been strengthened by the defection of two members of parliament, including the Speaker, Theodore Zurenuoc.

The defection takes the PNC to around 60 members, while the People’s Progress Party (PPP) is reduced to five following the departure of Mr Zurenuoc and member for Kundiawa-Gembogl, Tobias Kulang.

The two parties are in coalition, but the general secretary of the PPP, Moses Kar, told Radio New Zealand the group was disappointed to lose the members of parliament from the fold.

“We were a bit upset because their departure was a surprise to the whole team. But there’s nothing much we could do,” he said.

Mr O’Neill welcomed the new members, saying that the party continued to grow because of the stability that it is providing to the nation.

“Stability in terms of leadership, stability in terms of policy and stability in the management of the affairs of the economy of the country is bringing members to the PNC Party,” Mr O’Neill said.

“Working with the speaker over the last two and a half years of the parliament and working with our brother member, Tobias Kulang, we have come to recognise that we need to put our talents and abilities together for the good of the country.

“Them joining Government adds further stability so that we can continue to roll out the programs that they have started.

The Prime Minister further highlighted the professionalism and independence of Theodore Zurenuoc in carrying out his duties as the Speaker of the Parliament.

“Many of you know how Parliaments in the past were managed, now we know things are functioning and Parliamentary business is being conducted,” he said.

“We have not missed one day of Parliamentary meetings since this parliament started. This is a credit to the speaker.”