29 May 2004

PNG's opposition angry at Skate's dumping as speaker

8:10 am on 29 May 2004

Opposition MPs in Papua New Guinea have stormed out of parliament after the Speaker was voted out of office.

The former prime minister and acting governor-general, Bill Skate, was not present yesterday, when MPs removed him from his role as Speaker in a secret ballot.

Opposition members then launched a protest, accusing the acting speaker, Jeffrey Nape, of bias and unconstitutional behaviour, for deciding to hold the ballot.

Mr Skate, who was until yesterday also PNG's acting governor-general, resolved earlier this week to tackle the government "head on".

By removing Skate as Speaker, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's governing coalition stands a better chance of surviving a vote of no-confidence.

The Opposition is expected to launch a legal challenge in the PNG Supreme Court against Mr Skate's removal as Speaker.

In the meantime, Parliament has been adjourned until June 29.

Mr Skate is the founder of the largest Opposition party - the People's National Congress - which until last week was part of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare's ruling coalition.