PNG speaker rejects Somare as PM

05:45, Dec 13 2011
Michael Somare
RETURN TO POWER: Papua New Guinea's former prime minister Sir Michael Somare has been restored to PM after a supreme court ruling declaring the election of Peter O'Neill unconstitutional.

Papua New Guinea's parliamentary Speaker Jeffery Nape says he will only recognise the government of Peter O'Neill, despite the Supreme Court's decision to return Sir Michael Somare to power.

During an emergency sitting of parliament today, Mr Nape said Sir Michael was no longer a member of parliament.

"The law is very clear," Mr Nape told about 60 supporters of Mr O'Neill who attended the session today (NZ time).

"The decision by the Speaker of parliament on August 2 that there was a vacancy (in the prime ministership) on August 2 was not unlawful."

A Supreme Court decision, handed down on Monday, restored former prime minister Sir Michael to office and said the 76-year-old political veteran was still a member of parliament, overturning Mr Nape's mid-August decision to unseat him.

Sir Michael was expected to be sworn in by the governor-general later today.

As the Supreme Court decision was handed down on Monday, parliament voted 69 to 0 to re-elect Mr O'Neill.

That decision sparked off a dramatic standoff at Government House overnight between supporters of both camps.

In parliament on Tuesday, former prime minister Julius Chan asked MPs to allow Sir Michael to resume his seat in parliament but not allow him to become prime minister again.

"I will be the first to move a motion to reinstate Sir Michael Somare as the member for East Sepik, if the parliament so pleases," he said.

Meanwhile, a court hearing was underway in which Mr O'Neill's deputy prime minister Belden Namah and attorney-general Allan Marat faced contempt charges.

The pair was arrested in November for trying to suspend chief justice Sir Salamo Injia ahead of his verdict into the constitutionality of Mr O'Neill's election.