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Sir Julius Chan says he is not acting Prime Minister
10:28 pm GMT+12, 26/05/2019, Papua New Guinea

Sir Julius Chan has clarified he is not Acting Prime Minister and although honoured to be considered as the Governments alternate when the resignation of the PM takes place.
 
“I have not been designated any Ministerial role by Peter O’Neill”.
 
Sir Julius said there had been a huge misunderstanding concerning Sunday’s press conference.
 
First, the existing Prime Minister has no power to nominate a new Prime Minister of his choice, Peter O’Neill simply designated me the provisional caretaker of the Government Coalition,” Sir Julius said.
 
“Peter O’Neill is doing the honourable thing – he is respecting the desires of the people, of the country, and stepping down.  He simply asked me to help by maintaining order among the members of the coalition and helping the coalition to work with all parliamentary members to make a wise and uniting decision concerning who should become the next Prime Minister.”
 
Sir Julius said that he was not seeking to become Prime Minister.
 
“It is kind of funny,” Sir Julius said.
 
“I have been approached by both Opposition and Government sides to consider becoming Prime Minister, but I have not been seeking the job.
 
I do not need the job, frankly.  I have plenty of work to do in New Ireland.
 
I am Governor of my Province and legally remain so unless I am called to take up a post at the National level and sworn in as such.”
 
But, he says, if he is called, then he will serve.
 
“If we are honest,” Sir J said,”
 
We have to admit the country is facing huge problems, If the members of Parliament – and I mean both Opposition and Government – feel I can contribute to dealing with those problems over the next year or two, then I am willing to do whatever I am asked to do to help make that happen.”
 
Sir Julius concluded by saying: “I want to be very clear – this is not a position I am seeking, However, I love Papua New Guinea, and there is a desperate need right now to unite the country, to heal our wounds, and to make the wealth of this country work to the benefit of the people of this country.
 
If my knowledge and experience can be of use in that process, then I will do whatever I am asked to do in the service of our beloved country, including declining the top post to someone better suited, said Sir Julius.

Meanwhile, former Papua New Guinea Attorney General and member for Esa’ala Davis Stevens has described the announcement by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill stepping aside and appointing Sir Julius Chan as acting Prime Minister as a political gimmick.
 
“It’s a political strategy to lure back the exodus of his ministers and MPs after realising that he has a minority government. Technically there’s no vacancy unless he has resigned.
 
He is still the Prime Minister and with respect to Sir Julius Chan, he cannot assume the role of acting Prime Minister when there is a Deputy Prime Minister which is a legally recognized office.
 
“Unless Charles Abel has resigned as Deputy Prime Minister or he has been removed by the Prime Minister which is his prerogative, the announcement is all a political ploy.
 
He added that the election and removal of a Prime Minister is clearly spelled out in our Constitution and that is for elected members to elect a Prime Minister if and when there is a vacancy in that office.
 
As soon as the Governor-General is advised formally by a letter from the Prime Minister of his resignation, the Governor-General then advises the Speaker who will then invoke the relevant laws”.
 
Stevens was among the first Government MPs who moved.

Meanwhile, the announcement by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s that he was going to resign “is a political gimmick aimed to create more confusion,” says Opposition MP Kerenga Kua.
 
The Sinasina-Yongomugl MP who is also the shadow minister for justice and attorney-general, told The National that O’Neill’s statement that he would “step down in the coming days” meant that he was technically still the prime minister.
 
“Unless and until he writes a formal letter to the governor-general informing him of his decision to resign as the prime minister, (he remains in the position)”.
 
“If he does this (writes the letter), then there will be an immediate vacancy in the prime minister’s seat, and Parliament will be able to elect a new prime minister after 24 hours of it been informed through the Speaker’s Office,” he said.
 
Kua said if O’Neill handed in his letter of resignation today, then Parliament would be informed of it through the Speaker on Tuesday “and a new prime minister can be elected on Wednesday”.
 
“However, if he does not resign, then the only pathway would be to submit a motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill on Tuesday when Parliament sits. The motion will then go before the Private Business Parliamentary Committee and will be placed on the notice papers on Thursday. And a vote of no-confidence will likely take place on June 6,” he said.
 
In another development, three members of Parliament who have been jostling between Laguna and the Crown camp are back in the spotlight.
 
Sohe MP Henry Amuli, Talasea MP Francis Maneke and Kiriwina-Goodenough MP Douglas Tomuriesa have now moved back to join the opposition at Laguna Hotel. However, reports from Laguna last night stated the two MPs Manake and Tomuriesa were asked to leave the camp as they already had numbers intact.
 
Two weeks ago, the three were at Laguna.
 
The Talasea MP was secretly transported out of Laguna to Crown and Tomuriesa after joining Laguna, went back to claim his Forest Ministerial portfolio. The two then made peace with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in a reconciliation ceremony where pigs and food were presented to PM as ‘bel kol’ for their indiscretions.  
 
Member for Sohe was at Laguna and on Saturday went to church as it was his Sabbath but later ended up at the Crown Hotel. Tari-Pori MP James Marape in welcoming back Amuli explained the Sohe MP’s disappearance. “He went to church and a process of political hijacking took place. That was his story and he’s been in contact with us and he now comes back to the team he rightfully belongs,” Marape said.
 
The three MPs are back at Laguna, bringing the total alternate government camp total to 64 MPs.


SOURCE: POST COURIER/ THE NATIONAL


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