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No details of Somare’s infirmity released

By Harlyne Joku and Jonathan Tannos PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April. 20, 2011) - The Prime Minister (PM), Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, is going under the knife [in Singapore].

Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal yesterday cleared speculation over the health of Sir Michael when he said the PM would be going through an operation in the next few days.

Mr. Abal called on Papua New Guineans to pray for Sir Michael, adding the operation was a medical procedure and nothing serious but he was going "under the knife".

"We hope he goes through the operation well and be back on as Prime Minister by next week. He is well and jubilant and this is all part of the medical examinations and medical procedure," the acting Prime Minister said.

Mr. Abal made the remarks to VIPs, representatives of the government, private sector and the media, when officiating at the welcome ceremony of a new Air Niugini Boeing 767 yesterday evening at Jackson’s International Airport tarmac.

Meanwhile, former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, yesterday visited his former Papua New Guinea (PNG) counterpart, Sir Michael Somare, in Singapore.

Mr. Rudd, who is now Foreign Minister of Australia, was on his way back home from the Middle East, when he detoured to call in to see how Sir Michael was doing.

Sir Michael announced from Singapore that his deputy, Sam Abal, would remain acting Prime Minister for the duration of recuperation period.

Sir Michael is undergoing medical treatment as part of his routine check up but was understood to have developed complications, rendering him prolonged time to complete all necessary treatment and observation.

"During this period of infirmity, I was also fortunate enough to be visited by my former Australian colleague, now Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, on his way back from an official visit to the Middle East and Europe, Sir Michael said. We discussed various issues surrounding my health, and the possibility of a visit by Mr. Rudd to PNG in May this year."

On Mr. Abal’s acting appointment, Sir Michael said he would "remain on medical leave until further notice".

Sir Michael said he had accepted the decision of the Leadership Tribunal that suspended him for two weeks from April 4, 2011 after finding him guilty of misconduct in office when he did not file annual returns for some years and submitted incomplete forms.

"I have accepted the decision of the tribunal and have served out the period of my two-week suspension from office as Prime Minister, he said. The country is in good hands and while I am pleased that the period of my suspension is now over, I will remain on medical leave until further notice. I take this opportunity to once again thank all the visitors and well wishers including those who are praying for my return to good health and speedy recovery."

An Abal aide said the Acting Prime Minister was being fully briefed on the condition of Sir Michael.

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