19 Dec 2011

Suspension of PNG Governor-General lifted, O'Neill recognised as PM

10:43 pm on 19 December 2011

The suspension of Papua New Guinea's Governor General Sir Michael Ogio has been lifted as the group backing Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister consolidated its claim to be government.

The O'Neill grouping, which makes up the majority of the country's MPs, lifted the suspension today in parliament.

The Governor General was suspended last week after refusing to swear in Peter O'Neill again following the Supreme Court ruling that had reinstated Sir Michael Somare as Prime Minister and sparked an unprecedented political standoff.

However during today's sitting of parliament, the Speaker, Jeffrey Nape, said Sir Michael Ogio wrote a letter stating his swearing in of Somare's ministers last week was wrong.

The O'Neill camp decamped to Government House this afternoon after parliament had met in what a spokesman called a "courtesy call".

The Governor-General has now followed the head of the Public Service and Police Chief in recognising Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Sir Michael Somare's group has indicated he has no intention of backing down from his claim to the Prime Ministership.

A spokesperson for the Somare faction, Betha Somare, says any forced or negotiated resignation by Sir Michael would mean condoning the violations of the constitution as ruled by the Supreme Court.

"He's the person who is the father of our constitution, he's the person who is the father of our nation. If he gives in to people who have made on illegal action after another since the second of August, where are we going to be with our constitution?"

Meanwhile, Betha Somare describes the resignation of Sam Abal as Sir Michael Somare's deputy as an honourable move to leave space open for the opposing side to work with the Somare administration.