Sir Michael back as prime minister

National, Normal

The National- Tuesday, January 18, 2011


PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare, who voluntarily stepped aside following his referral and pending appointment of a leadership tribunal, resumed duties at 1.30pm yesterday. 

The National had been told that a number of high-level meetings were conducted last weekend amid pressure from the ruling party executives.

With the prime minister back in his office, it was presumed safe for the government to go to the polls next year after getting National Alliance party matters resolved and knowing that they were intact.

Prime Minister’s chief of staff Paul Bengo said in a short statement yesterday that Sir Michael officially resumed at 1.30pm after almost five weeks holidaying since Dec 10 last year.

He stated that after almost 40 years in parlimaent, Sir Michael had outstanding incurred leave which he had decided to take late last year and for a duration of five weeks; and  he had decided to resume duties yesterday.

Bengo said Sir Michael’s first duty after resuming office included calling on the new governor-general, Michael Ogio, a briefing by acting Prime Minister Sam Abal and he later chaired a special national executive council meeting yesterday afternoon.

He said the prime minister would also officiate at the opening of the new Wewak town market and jetty projects jointly funded by the PNG and Japanese governments later this week.

A new police post would also be opened.

However, Bengo did not go into any of the power play meetings held last weekend or the high-profiled ministerial meetings understood to have taken place.

The media was advised of a conference yesterday but that was later cancelled with no reasons given.

Bengo, when asked of a possible cabinet reshuffle, responded that there was no need for any major reshuffle with just one vacancy in existence, which is the ministry of higher education, science and technology.

The ministry was vacated by Ogio after he was elected as the ninth governor-general of Papua New Guinea by parliament last Friday.

However, with the parliament adjourned to May, it was likely that the new governor-general would have to wait until then to be sworn in and depart for London to meet the queen.

According to legal sources, Speaker Jeffrey Nape would be acting governor-general while Francis Marus would remain as acting speaker until the swearing-in of Ogio.