20 Apr 2011

PNG's Somare takes indefinite medical leave

7:06 am on 20 April 2011

Papua's New Guinea Prime Minister says he will vacate his office to take indefinite medical leave and has backed his deputy Sam Abal to stand in for him.

Sir Michael Somare was in Singapore to celebrate his 75th birthday and undergo what he said was a minor medical operation following a two-week suspension from office for financial misconduct.

Sir Michael says Mr Abal, who had served as prime minister in his place, will continue the job.

He also says he was visited in hospital by Australia's foreign minister Kevin Rudd, where the pair discussed a possible visit by Mr Rudd to PNG in May.

Sir Michael was suspended from office on April the 4th following the judgment of a specially-convened international tribunal which found him guilty on 13 charges of failing to fill in financial forms correctly.

The charges dated back 20 years.

Sir Michael was expected to return to work yesterday.

Last week, there were reports Sir Michael was gravely ill in Singapore, but the 43-year veteran of PNG politics and self-described Grand Chief called the national broadcaster to say he was only being hospitalised for minor surgery.