19 Aug 2008

PNG's opposition leader surprised at PM's announcement

10:52 am on 19 August 2008

Papua New Guinea's opposition leader, Bart Philemon, says the prime minister's announcement yesterday that he won't step down comes as a surprise.

Prime minister Sir Michael Somare had in June been referred by the ombudsman commission to be prosecuted for an alleged misconduct of office for irregularities in his personal finances dating back to 1992.

After weeks of speculation whether he will step down, Sir Michael yesterday assured the public that he will remain the leader of his National Alliance party.

Mr Philemon says it remains to be seen what will happen next.

"I take it as a fact that the leadership of the party is contested at that time. And that's what he's alluding to. Whether he will stand again for the next term of parliament, that's a question that's in everybody's mind."