14 Dec 2010

PNG leader steps down

12:35 pm on 14 December 2010

Sir Michael Somare has stepped down as the country's Prime Minister to face allegations of official misconduct.

Sir Michael outlined late last night his plan to voluntarily step aside after his lawyers earlier in the day failed to stop the public prosecutor advising the country's Chief Justice to set up a leadership tribunal.

In a press statement, Sir Micahel said he respects the due processes and will continue to make himself available to the hearings.

He also referred to the court hearing as a "gross injustice" saying the judge in the case went missing and could not be located to hear the matter.

Sir Michael's legal team were to argue the Ombudsman Commission failed to follow procedures, effectively invalidating the commission's report into alleged improprieties regarding Sir Michael's listing of financial records.

Deputy prime minister Sam Abal will assume responsibility of the office of the prime minister.

The moves are the latest in the political drama which has seen a snap cabinet reshuffle and a Supreme Court ruling that the re-election of the country's Governor-general was invalid.

Last Friday the Supreme Court declared PNG's parliament now must reconvene before 20 January for new Governor-General nominations.

The opposition is hoping the re-sitting of parliament will give it an opportunity for another vote of no-confidence.