5 Jan 2011

Uncertainty in PNG over possible Somare return

7:37 pm on 5 January 2011

A spokesperson for Papua New Guinea's acting prime minister says Sir Michael Somare is legally entitled to return as prime minister, but he has not indicated that he intends to do so.

In December, Sir Michael's office said he was stepping aside following a recommendation that the Chief Justice appoint a leadership tribunal to hear misconduct charges against him.

Frank Kolma, who is the media advisor for acting prime minister Sam Abal, says Sir Michael is at liberty to resume his duties before the likely appointment of a tribunal at the end of January, but he has made no such suggestion to Mr Abal.

"Sir Michael Somare has not informed the acting PM of any such intention, that has been in the media. But the position of the acting Prime Minister, Mr Abal is that should the Prime Minister want to come off this holiday or step down condition, he can. There is nothing under the law that prohibits him from doing so."

Frank Kolma says once a tribunal is appointed Sir Michael would automatically be suspended from office until it concludes its deliberations.