25 Oct 2011

Hearings resume in PNG's Somare ouster case

2:30 pm on 25 October 2011

Hearings into the legitimacy of the government of Peter O'Neill will resume before the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea today.

The hearings, which have been running since mid-August, are challenging the parliamentary and constitutional processes used to elevate Mr O'Neill to the post of prime minister on August the 2nd.

Lawyers for the former prime minister Sir Michael Somare and his appointed successor, Sam Abal, are arguing there was no vacancy in the office of prime minister at the time of Mr O'Neill's elevation to the top job, rendering the move unconstitutional.

Hearings were adjourned in late September after the bench decided to let a single judge, Justice David Cannings, decide what issues are relevant after the reference questions ballooned from seven to more than 20.

Among them was the health of Sir Michael, who left PNG in mid April for Singapore to undergo three heart operations.

Justice Cannings ruled last week that while Sir Michael was physically incapable of being prime minister between when he left for Singapore and when he returned in early September, he retained his mental capabilities.