PNG High Court Reinstates Somare as Prime Minister

Posted December 12th, 2011 at 9:30 am (UTC-5)
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Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has reinstated ailing independence leader Michael Somare as prime minister, in a ruling that says the election earlier this year of Somare's replacement was unconstitutional.

In a 3-2 decision, the court ruled Monday that there was no vacancy in the office of prime minister in August, when Mr. Somare's replacement, Peter O'Neill, was elected by parliament.

Mr. Somare, 75, was removed from office by a majority of lawmakers after spending months in Singapore undergoing repeated heart surgeries. Lawmakers then elected O'Neill.

The Somare ouster cast the impoverished Pacific nation into political turmoil pitting supporters of the longtime leader against backers of Mr. O'Neill.

Ahead of the High Court ruling, police in the capital, Port Moresby, erected roadblocks to protect the courthouse and other areas of the city. There were no reports of violence.

Mr. Somare led Papua New Guinea to independence in 1975 and was serving his third term as prime minister when he took a medical leave of absence in December 2010.