The National – Thursday, December 9, 2010
By ISAAC NICHOLAS
PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare will be referred to a leadership tribunal for breaching the Leadership Code, effectively requiring him to step aside as head of government.
Acting Public Prosecutor Jim Wala Tamate said yesterday he had served notice on Sir Michael about his intention to request the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to appoint a leadership tribunal to hear Ombudsman Commission charges that the prime minister had failed to submit his annual returns since 1996.
The announcement came 24 hours after a snap reshuffle with the National Alliance cabinet seats in the government in which Sir Michael elevated Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal to be the new deputy prime minister in place of Don Polye, meaning Abal will be acting prime minister, should Sir Michael steps aside.
Tamate confirmed late yesterday that a letter was served on Sir Michael, the regional member for East Sepik, and his lawyer Kerenga Kua yesterday morning.
“The letter was a notice to the prime minister advising him that, in three days time, a request will be made to the chief justice to appoint a leadership tribunal.”
However, sources said the letter was not served on the prime minister in person but left at the gates of his Mirigini House residence at Waigani.
Sir Michael was referred by the Ombudsman Commission in 2008 after finding that he had failed to submit his annual returns dating back to 1996.
However, the prime minister appealed to the National Court but, last week, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.
The dismissal did not affect a Supreme Court reference that is still pending, or Sir Michael’s position as a leader, allowing him to still pursue the substantive matter.
The prime minister is likely to be suspended as per the Supreme Court decision on the case of former treasurer and finance minister Patrick Pruaitch if a tribunal was established.
Sir Michael is understood to have briefed his cabinet ministers and NA party executives yesterday afternoon.
The National understood that his snap reshuffle of NA ministers on Tuesday was to cater for a worse-case scenario, in which he preferred Abal to be in charge of government rather that fellow Engan Polye.
Although there was no official confirmation last night from the government, sources claimed the changes would be effected by the prime minister before the end of the week.
The NA changes were Sir Arnold Amet as attorney-general and justice minister; Ano Pala – Agriculture and Livestock; Mark Maipakai – Labour and Industrial Relations; and Puri Ruing – Internal Security.
Axed from cabinet were Sani Rambi and John Hickey.