13 Dec 2011

Speaker ignores court ruling to reinstate Somare

10:54 pm on 13 December 2011

Papua New Guinea is in political deadlock, with two rival prime ministers claiming the right to exercise power after a tense day in the capital Port Moresby.

The parliamentary Speaker is ignoring a Supreme Court order to reinstate Sir Michael Somare as the country's prime minister.

The position was declared vacant in August this year while Sir Michael, 75, was out of the country receiving medical treatment.

The court has now ruled he should be reinstated in place of Peter O'Neill, the man who took over from him.

Parliament in Port Moresby resumed on Tuesday with Mr O'Neill and his supporters occupying the government side of the chamber.

The Speaker, Jeffrey Nape, says retrospective laws passed on Monday mean Sir Michael is not the prime minister and no longer an MP.

Mr Nape says Peter O'Neill is Papua New Guinea's legitimate leader.

Dozens of heavily armed police loyal to Sir Michael have blocked access to government house since Monday night.