Sunday, May 27, 2012

PNG Governor-General won't sign anything

By Eoin Blackwell

AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent

Papua New Guinea's governor-general has washed his hands of both sides of the nation's political dispute, with his office saying he will not sign any documents until a government is formed after the election.
A senior member of the office of Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio says the head of state has refused to sign any documents presented by parliamentary elected prime minister Peter O'Neill or from his court-appointed rival for the top job, Sir Michael Somare.
The spokesman says the governor-general has also refused to sign an instrument recalling parliament for a special sitting last week in which the government voted for a state of emergency in three provinces including the capital, Port Moresby.
"No documents have been received by the governor-general and that includes the state of emergency (declared by parliament on Friday)," the spokesman, who declined to be named, told AAP today (Sunday).
He said Sir Michael Ogio had refused to sign the document approving Friday's special sitting of parliament at which MPs voted for a state of emergency.
"He received that document but he did not sign it," the spokesman said, answering "negative" when asked the question two more times.
"Go to the election. That was advised to everybody from the beginning, go to the election."
The spokesman said the governor-general was seeking legal advice.
A government gazette authorising an emergency sitting of parliament and bearing Sir Michael Ogio's name but not his signature, was circulated to media on Wednesday.
A spokesman for Mr O'Neill said parliament had been convened only after advice had been sought from the governor-general.
"The Speaker convened parliament upon receiving a government gazette, which gazetted the head of state's decision recalling parliament," said Mr O'Neill's spokesman, who also declined to be named.
"The governor deferred the signing of the document two or three hours (after a scheduled appointment was delayed)."
The increasingly volatile political situation in Port Moresby has given birth to a virtual game of shadows, with spokespeople reluctant to be quoted on the record.
Constitutional lawyer Ray Williams told AAP that parliament could not be convened without the consent of the governor-general.
"The instrument must be signed by the governor-general, otherwise it is not an instrument at all," Mr Williams said.
"In terms of the sitting itself, if it is not approved by the governor-general, in effect it would not be constitutional to do that."
Parliament voted on Friday to advise Sir Michael Ogio on the state of emergency, a move which gives Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga greater powers to arrest and detain.
Sir Michael Somare has issued a statement urging the nation's armed forces not to take any more action, saying a gazette approving parliament's emergency is illegal.
"I have checked with the office of the governor-general and his excellency has personally informed me that he did not sign any approval for parliament to sit last week," he said in a statement.
"The gazettal therefore to reconvene parliament is fraudulent and yet another abuse of process by the O'Neill regime."
A police spokesman said the state of emergency would not come into effect until the force's high command received documentation from the governor-general.
"As soon as those documents are gazetted and signed by the G-G, we will act on them," he said.
"The police are on standby."
Campaigning for PNG's eighth election since independence from Australia is in full swing and the June 23 poll is just four weeks away.
The nation was rocked this week by further political turmoil when the Supreme Court ruled in a disputed decision that Sir Michael Somare was the nation's legitimate prime minister.
Two judges declined to rule on ethical grounds.
Deputy PM Belden Namah stormed into the court on Thursday in an attempt to arrest Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, who was later charged with sedition and released.
A splinter group of police officers blockaded parliament on Friday to prevent the special sitting from taking place.
After hours of negotiation with senior officers, the group disbanded.
AAP has also learned that Governor-General Ogio will depart PNG on Monday for Britain to participate in the Queen's Birthday celebrations.
According to protocol, Speaker Jeffrey Nape will become acting governor-general until Sir Michael Ogio returns on June 12.

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