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Deputy Prime Minister Abal begins process

By Jonathan Tannos PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 1, 2011) – The Constitutional process to officially remove of Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare from office on medical grounds has commenced.

This was announced by Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal, who called a media conference with all his coalition party leaders in a show of consolidation amid strong under-currents of political instability. Those who attended included William Duma, who was sacked by him as Petroleum Minister three weeks ago, and Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru, who was purportedly sacked by Mr Duma from the United Resources Party. Enga Governor Peter Ipatas was also in attendance with the ministers.

But in a new twist of events, a member of the Somare family yesterday claimed that his nephew, Arthur Somare, who is Public Enterprises Minister, had misled the people of PNG regarding the family’s expressed desire to see their father retired from politics.

THE National Executive Council, however, yesterday met and agreed to kick-start the process to invoke Section 142 (5) (c) of the Constitution for two medical practitioners to examine the Grand Chief in the Raffles Hospital in Singapore and produce medical certificates on his condition. (see the law above),

However, before they do that, Cabinet has decided that Sir Michael’s personal physician for 30 years, Professor Dr Sir Isi Kevau, should produce a medical report on the PM’s condition to date and based on that, the NEC would advise the Governor-General to ask the Medical Board of PNG to appoint two doctors to examine the Prime Minister.

Mr Abal was joined by Attorney General Sir Arnold Amet to make the announcement flanked by their Cabinet colleagues.

Sir Arnold said on receipt of Dr Kevau’s report, NEC would advise the Governor General to request the PNG Medical Board to appoint two doctors to conduct full examinations of Sir Michael’s condition and report back to the Head of State within 28 days from their engagement.

Sir Arnold said the Governor General will refer their certified reports to the Speaker for presentation to Parliament which will make a decision on suspension or otherwise from office.

Sir Arnold said there were also provisions under Sections 7 and 8 of the Prime Minister and National Executive Council Act 2002 for a second examination if the Prime Minister’s condition improved within three months from when they examined him.

He said in such an event, the Head of State would again request another or subsequent examinations and in so doing the Prime Minister would be suspended until certified fit for normal duties.

He said on certification of unfitness or inability to continue duties, the Head of State would forward a report to the Speaker for presentation to Parliament to deal with and the Prime Minister remains suspended.

He said the Speaker is then required to present the report on the first sitting day of Parliament but if it is not meeting and is not due to meet for more than 14 days after that time "a meeting shall be called as soon as practicable."

He said Under Section 11; "Where a report is presented to Parliament under Subsection 6 or 8, the Parliament may advise the Head of State to remove the Prime Minister from office".

One observer commented yesterday that the crucial operational word, "may", in the wording could be deliberately used by government to delay the advice to the Governor General to remove the PM from office.

The ministers at the press conference included Philip Kikala (Agriculture), Mark Maipakai (Internal Security), Paru Aihi (Higher Education), Gabriel Kapris (Commerce), Moses Maladina (Public Service), Peter O’Neill (Works) and Andrew Kumbakor (Housing) and William Duma.

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