14 Dec 2011

In PNG Somare Cabinet sworn in but no back down by rival camp

2:44 pm on 14 December 2011

One of the two men claiming to be Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, was reinstated by the governor-general this morning, after five days of tense political deadlock.

But at parliament, Peter O'Neill, who toppled Sir Michael while he was overseas for heart treatment, was sitting in the government benches, refusing to step down despite Monday's Supreme Court ruling that he had taken power illegally.

Heavily armed police are protecting Government House, the Supreme Court and Parliament, but elsewhere in the city life is going on as usual.

The governor-general's press officer says Sir Michael Ogio had sought advice from the government lawyer and decided to uphold the Supreme Court ruling.

But Mr O'Neill rejects the ruling, saying he was elected by parliament and is therefore the legitimate prime minister.

There are reports he is trying to have Sir Michael Ogio removed as governor general.

Parliament, with only O'Neill backers in attendance, today passed a motion demanding the governor-general come to parliament to swear in Mr O'Neill as prime minister.

Mr O'Neill's leader of government business, Moses Maladina, also introduced a bill requiring police commissioner Tom Kulunga to assist the governor-general in getting to parliament.

The Somare government has said it's replacing Mr Kulunga with Fred Yakasa.

The O'Neill MPs also passed a motion to ban Sir Michael Somare and his cabinet from declaring themselves as the nation's government.