House re-elects O’Neill PM

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday 13th December 2011

DESPITE the Supreme Court declaring the change in government on Aug 2 unconstitutional, parliament yesterday went ahead to re-elect Peter O’Neill as prime minister.
Soon after Speaker Jeffery Nape was informed of the court decision at around 6.05pm, he declared a vacancy in the prime minister’s office based on the Prime Minister and National Executive Council (Amendment) Bill 2011
(see separate story).
“I have been informed of the Supreme Court ruling that the former prime minister and sacked member for East Sepik Regional is being reinstated,” he said.
He said a vacancy existed after Sir Michael Somare was disqualified and that the passing of the amendments to the Prime Minister and the National Executive Council Act 2011 created a vacancy. He therefore declared a vacancy in the prime minister’s office and asked for nominations.
Health Minister Jamie Maxton-Graham nominated Peter O’Neill which was seconded by Minister for National Planning Sam Basil and the nomination closed by Minister for Petroleum and Energy William Duma.
Parliament voted in O’Neill 69-0.
However about six seats on the government benches were vacant including those of Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah, Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat, who were in court, and Sir Julius Chan who seems to have avoided taking the vote.
Meanwhile earlier in the morning, three bus-loads of government members came to parliament.
When parliament resumed at around 11am, the government with its numerical strength of 71 votes tabled the Prime Minister and NEC Amendment Bill 2011. It passed it before adjourning parliament to 2pm, the
same time of the Supreme Court ruling.
Parliament resumed at 2pm and debated on the 2012 national budget until 6pm when the news of the court decision reached them. Parliament voted in O’Neill as the prime Minister.