GRAND Chief Sir Michael Somare said from Singapore yesterday that "there has never been a vacancy in the position of prime minister", The National reports.
In a media statement, he said: "Let me be clear. I am ready, willing and able to complete my term as the only legally elected prime minister of Papua New Guinea."
The signed statement, his first since he was hospitalised in April, was e-mailed by daughter Betha Somare to the media.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill responded last night by saying there was no vacancy to be filled by Sir Michael.
He said: "We welcome the news that the Grand Chief has recovered sufficiently to travel. As a citizen, he is free to travel as and when he pleases and we will accord him the respect he deserves.
"In so far as government is concerned, parliament has spoken overwhelmingly against his (Sir Michael's) government and elected in a new government.
"As he has demonstrated, many times in the past, we expect him to respect the clear mandate of parliament."
Sir Michael's statement read in part: "Sections 142-145 of the Papua New Guinea Constitution are very clear about the election and removal of a prime minister.
"There has never been any vacancy in the position of prime minister.
"As elected representatives, we must uphold the Constitution of Papua New Guinea and respect the independent role of the Supreme Court and, therefore, not pre-empt any judgment.
"O'Neill should know that the East Sepik provincial government is acting fully within its rights to file a Supreme Court reference under section 19 of the Constitution by questioning the legitimacy of the election.
"If O'Neill thinks that his election is legitimate, he should not feel threatened by the actions of the East Sepik provincial government.
"The Supreme Court reference raises legitimate questions and has a right to be heard."
Sir Michael further said the prime minister's recent claims that no law was broken by parliament might invite contempt of the Supreme Court as the very matter of whether or not laws were broken was before the court.