PNG PM turns to Supreme Court to stave off leadership challenge

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-28 20:28:01|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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by Levi J Parsons

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Despite announcing he would step down as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) three days ago, Peter O'Neill returned to the nation's parliament as leader on Tuesday.

With a vote-of-no-confidence motion pending against O'Neill's leadership, the embattled statesman said on Sunday that he would soon leave the top job and in doing so, he handed over the reigns to former Prime Minister and ally, Sir Julius Chan.

But today, in a last ditch effort to stave off his political opponents, O'Neill asked the Supreme Court to examine the legality of the challenge.

"So what usually happens is that there's a committee in parliament that's made up of members and if there's a vote of no confidence, they have to sit and discuss it first," political science lecturer at the University of PNG, Geejay Milli, told Xinhua.

"Then they put out a notice in parliament, usually it's within one week, and after that the notice is sent out, the parliament is adjourned for another week, and then when parliament sits, the vote of no confidence is put on the floor and that's when they have the vote."

With O'Neill arguing that his political opponents have not followed proper parliamentary procedures, former PNG Chief Justice, Sir Arnold Amet reiterated to local media yesterday that "an announcement that the Prime Minister intends to resign has no effect until such time when he actually tenders his resignation in writing, that could be any time. There is no time limit," he said.

On Friday this week, it's expected that the Supreme Court will hear O'Neill's accusations of impropriety, but it's far from clear what the outcome is likely to be.

"From the events that have unfolded this week, it's really unpredictable," Milli said.

"We don't know if a vote of no confidence will be held next week. If people who defected could go back to O'Neill's Government. We have no idea what's going to happen."

Meanwhile, as parliament readies for another day of action on the house floor on Wednesday, a massive police presence has built up around the capital.

Over 1,000 extra officers have been deployed to Port Moresby to quell any sign of unrest and as a precautionary measure, schools in the National Capital District (NCD) will also remain closed this week.

NCD Metropolitan Superintendent of Police, Perou N'Dranou, on Tuesday warned the public not to take part in any "illegal demonstrations," calling on people to respect the "parliamentary process."

"We are urging residents to take other routes from the parliament area as police barricades will be set up," he told reporters at a media conference.