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72 years old or more not qualified to be Prime Minister

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 22, 2011) – Papua New Guinea (PNG) Parliament yesterday put an end to the age limit for Prime Ministership in PNG.

If you are past the age of 72, you cannot be Prime Minister. You have to retire.

The O’Neill-Namah government yesterday amended the National Executive Council Act to prevent a Member of Parliament from becoming or remaining as Prime Minister when he or she turns 72 years of age.

Parliament voted 68 – 3 to pass the new amendment which needed only a majority vote of 55.

The three that voted against were; Governor for New Ireland Sir Julius Chan, Governor Western province Dr Bob Danaya and MP for Wewak Open Dr Moses Manwau while NCD Governor Powes Pakop, Minister for Works Francis Awesa, Governor for Chimbu Fr John Garia, Minister for Mining Byron Chan and Governor for Northern Province Suckling Tamanabae walked out of the chamber before the vote was taken.

The new law comes into operation on and from August 1, 2011. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill when tabling the new proposed amendments, informed Parliament that the amendment is made by adding after Section 6 to the PM and NEC Act, Section 6A as ‘The Age Limit of Prime Minister’.

Mr O’Neill explained that this amendment does not restrict any person above the age of 72 from being elected as a member of Parliament but only restricts any person from the age of 72 and above from becoming a PM.

However, this did not go down well with Governor for New Ireland Province Sir Julius Chan, who asked: "Who among you that is 30 or 40, whose going to challenge me? Who are you to retire my people’s choice? We are taking away the rights of the young, the youths and the old and it is the people who will make the choice. "I stand here with a challenge to you young people. I am as good as you are. It’s not about Sir Michael Somare, it’s not about me, it’s about you. I think this law is a wrong law...I want to refer this to the Constitutional Committee otherwise I will have to determine my future," Sir Julius said.

"I object that law in totality. I ask the PM to withdraw the law and rethink it. I ask and I want to refer this to the Constitutional laws. This is a very serious matter. You are depriving my people’s choice, you are depriving your people’s choice. You may have the numbers but you have not proven yourself," he said. Governor for Milne Bay John Luke Critin and Minister for Housing Ken Fairweather both raised different point of orders supporting the bill.

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