House amends act to disqualify G’Chief

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday 13th December 2011

PARLIAMENT yesterday amended the Prime Minister & NEC Act to ensure Sir Michael Somare was no longer eligible as prime minister.
The changes to the law meant that in the event a prime minister absented himself from office for a period of three months or longer, there will automatically be a vacancy in the office.
Three months was the period Sir Michael spent overseas seeking medical treatment in Singapore.
The relevant change read: “After the appointment of a minister to be acting prime minister is made… when the prime minister is absent from the country in the event that the prime minister does not return to the country and resume office within three months of the appointment of an acting prime minister, the appointment shall cease and the office of the prime minister shall be deemed vacant.”
It added that the speaker of parliament shall inform parliament of the vacancy, and a new prime minister appointed.
The amendments also included the provision that medical practitioners may provide a joint report and certification of a prime minister’s medical condition to the head of state without conducting a physical examination.
The amendments included a validation of the election of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. It declared that the declaration of a vacancy in the office of the prime minister was not unlawful and that the decision of parliament on Aug 2 was valid and that the election of the prime minister was also valid.
This section will lapse at the return of the writs during the 2012 general election.
The amendments were later used to validate the election of O’Neill following the Supreme Court decision.