Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chief remains, says Kaiwi

GRAND Chief Sir Michael Somare remains in office regardless of the wishes of his family, the president of his National Alliance party said yesterday, The National reports.

“The position now is that the Somare family has made its wishes known,” National Alliance president Simon Kaiwi said yesterday.

“They do not want their father to continue as a politician. That is understandable.

“In terms of the positions that he (Sir Michael) holds as prime minister, parliamentary leader of NA and East Sepik member, he stills holds those positions.

“He is still the party leader and the PM until such time as that position is taken.”

He said Sir Michael’s position as prime minister would only be determined by parliament after legal requirements were satisfied.

The process to replace Sir Michael as parliamentary leader of NA begun in February this year at the Grand Chief’s own behest and was now well advanced, Kaiwi said.

Kaiwi said the next caucus meeting, scheduled to be held in Jiwaka, would determine the party leadership position.

“We are at an advanced stage now,” he said. “The process is well under way.”

That process started in February when, in consultation with the Grand Chief, Kaiwi was told to prepare for a successor to Sir Michael.

The parliamentary wing of NA, comprising 42 MPs, would convene in Minj town to elect the leader of the National Alliance.

That leader would be NA’s choice for the PM’s post should a vacancy occur by then.

Should a vacancy occur before the July meet, Kaiwi said it was the sole prerogative of parliament to elect a prime minister.

The view that the Somare family’s announcement to retire Sir Michael without his knowledge does not constitute a legally-binding decision was also shared by a number of people yesterday.

Private lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr said:  “It is not a family monarchy we have here in PNG; that Arthur Somare or any member of the family can decide on when the prime minister of this country can step down or not step down. 

“There are existing processes and bylaws of this land that must be followed.”

She said that by the application of this country’s section 142 of the Constitution and section 6 of the Prime Minister (PM) and National Executive Council (NEC) Act 2006, “the only way Sir Michael ceased being a PM is when he himself says (from his own mouth) that he has resigned and does so in writing to the national executive council, declaring that he is resigning and, therefore, stepping down”.

Or, that he is dismissed, suspended or voted out by parliament.

She said the application of such laws safeguard a PM (any PM) and the people of PNG from any actions, unscrupulous or otherwise.

She said the proper legal procedures required – under current circumstances – was that, upon advice from the national executive council, the governor-general was required to advise the PNG Medical Board, “who designates two medical practitioners to examine the prime minister”.

It would be based on that joint medical report presented to the governor-general “who advises the speaker to advise parliament which would then decide whether to suspend the prime minister on medical grounds or not”.

She said only then can a new prime minister be elected by parliament.

Outside of that, no one, not even the prime minister’s family members, have any say in whether or not he, as the chief executive of the country, should step down or not.

Senior lawyer Peter Donigi had raised similar points and the opposition yesterday called for the appointment of medical practitioners to follow the dictates of the Constitution.

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