PNG PM's handover plans raise questions

1:30 pm on 27 May 2019
Papua New Guinea's former prime minister, Peter O'Neill.

Papua New Guinea's former prime minister, Peter O'Neill. Photo: AFP

Opposition MPs in Papua New Guinea have questioned Prime Minster Peter O'Neill's announcement about a handover of leadership.

Yesterday, Mr O'Neill announced he would step down as prime minister in the coming days, although he has not yet tendered his resignation to the governor-general.

The prime minister said he was handing over the role to coalition partner and former prime minister Sir Julius Chan.

But opposition MP Jelta Wong says Mr O'Neill can't simply hand the role to anyone.

Usually, under the constitution, the deputy prime minister takes up the vacancy when a prime minister steps down.

Mr Wong, who left the government on Friday, says Mr O'Neill's announcement opens the way for chaos.

"How can Sir Julius be an acting prime minister when he (Mr O'Neill) is still in the country as prime minister, and his deputy prime minister is sitting right next to him?" he asked.

"So it's cause for concern, trying to make a constitutional crisis."

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has paid tribute to Mr O'Neill, saying he had enjoyed a "strong friendship" with him, and describing PNG as Australia's "closest and nearest neighbour."