14 Dec 2010

PNG's prime minister to step down for a leadership tribunal

5:42 am on 14 December 2010

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare will step aside as the country's leader so he can face a leadership tribunal regarding alleged misconduct in office.

Sir Michael outlined late last night his plan to voluntarily step aside after his lawyers earlier in the day failed to stop the public prosecutor advising the country's Chief Justice to set up a leadership tribunal.

Sir Michael in a press statement said he respects the due processes and will continue to make himself available to the hearings.

He also referred to yesterday's court debacle as a "gross injustice" considering the judge in the case went missing and could not be located to hear the matter.

Sir Michael's legal team were to argue the Ombudsman Commission failed to follow procedures, effectively invalidating the commission's report into alleged improprieties regarding Sir Michael's listing of financial records.

A newly appointed deputy prime minister, Sam Abal, will assume full function and responsibility of the office of the prime minister.

The leadership tribunal and prime minister stepping aside are the latest twists to PNG's second week of political drama that also saw a snap cabinet reshuffle and a supreme court ruling that the re-election of the country's governor-general was invalid.

PNG's political turmoil intensified last Friday when the Supreme Court declared PNG's parliament now must reconvene before January 20 for new governor-general nominations.

The opposition is hoping the re-sitting of parliament will give it an opportunity for another vote of no confidence.