6 Aug 2011

PNG court refuses to grant injuction sought by former acting PM

5:16 am on 6 August 2011

The national court of Papua New Guinea has refused to grant an injunction sought by former acting prime minister Sam Abal to stop the government of Peter O'Neill.

Yesterday, Judge Gavara-Nanu found that granting the injunction - which called for Mr O'Neill and his government to cease all official activities - would cause PNG to grind a halt and spark a crisis in the 36-year-old nation.

Mr Abal lost his job as acting leader on Tuesday, after 48 government MPs joined 22 from the opposition to elect Mr O'Neill as prime minister by a vote of 70 to 24.

Mr Abal's lawyer, Davis Steven, claimed there was no vacancy in the prime ministership, which rendered Tuesday's vote on the floor of parliament invalid.

However, Judge Gavara-Nanu told the court in Port Moresby that the office was vacated when Governor-General Michael Oglio swore Mr O'Neill in on Tuesday.

The man who appointed Mr Abal as acting prime minister in April, former prime minister Sir Michael Somare, remains out of the public spotlight.

The 75-year-old self-titled "grand chief" of PNG has reportedly been in Raffles Hospital in Singapore since undergoing heart surgery.

He departed for Singapore at the end of a court-mandated two-week dismissal from office in mid-March, after being found guilty of financial misconduct dating back 20 years.