O'Neill govt in court over election

21/08/2011 15:32


The future of the recently installed O’Neill government remains uncertain with the Ombudsman Commission (OC) making an application to the PNG Supreme Court to join as a party.

The East Sepik provincial government, headed by governor and National Alliance Party (NA) member Peter Wararu Waranaka, recently filed a special reference in the Supreme Court contesting the constitutionality of the election of the O’Neill government.

Local newspaper The National reports counsel to the OC Virgil Narokobi told the court the commission was ready to join the proceedings as a party. Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, sitting as a one-man bench, directed that the referrer serve documents on all concerned parties before next Tuesday when the matter is returnable.

The court proceeding is an anti-climax to Peter O’Neill’s surprise victory when disgruntled pro-Somare government politicians teamed up with the 22-member Opposition a fortnight ago to install him as prime minister. The political coup, which toppled the NA-led government of ailing former PM Sir Michael Somare, caught then acting prime minister Sam Abal off guard as he watched some of his own cabinet colleagues abandon the government.

Former state enterprise minister and Angoram MP Arthur Somare was reportedly infuriated at the change in government while his father was hospitalized in a Singapore hospital.

“That old man (Sir Michael) spent his life for the good of this country but it seems that nobody cares or appreciates the work of such a man like him,” Mr Somare told The National.

The Angoram MP, who is also facing a leadership tribunal for alleged misconduct in office, is confident the court will declare Mr O’Neill’s election illegal and warned the government against making any major policy decisions.

He is hoping the court will declare there was no vacancy in the prime minister’s position and return his father as the head of government, despite telling the nation in June that his family had collectively agreed for PNG’s veteran MP to retire from politics.

Sir Michael’s absence from government between April and July this year irked the Belden Namah-led Opposition, triggering criticisms that Mr Abal continued to overlook provisions in PNG laws which catered for a prime minister’s absence for over three months. An independent report on Sir Michael’s condition was handed to Mr Abal on August 1, about 4 months after the veteran MP was checked into Raffles Hospital to undergo a heart operation.