PNG sovereign fund bill held up by confusion over suspension

2:49 pm on 30 July 2015

The Papua New Guinea government has failed to pass its major agenda, the Sovereign Wealth Fund bill due to differences in legal opinion between the parliament speaker and government coalition partner, the National Alliance Party.

Yesterday's parliament sitting was marked by confusion over whether one of the National Alliance MPs who has been referred to a leadership tribunal is currently suspended as an MP.

A view of the government benches in Papua New Guinea's parliament.

A view of the government benches in Papua New Guinea's parliament. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Going on legal advice from his office, the speaker Theo Zurenuoc refused to recognise Bogia MP John Hickey and his right to participate in the vote on the Fund.

Pending clarification of his status, Mr Hickey left the chamber, and the government narrowly failed to pass the bill.

Our correspondent Todagia Kelola says the issue has exposed a grey area for parliament, although there is a precedent that would have meant Mr Hickey could have stayed on.

"Where leaders are not suspended until when the tribunal sits. Once they (the leadership tribunal) receive those allegations from the public prosecutor, then the member is suspended. But if a tribunal does not convene, although it has been appointed to sit, then the member is not suspended. So this is the confusion that members of the National Alliance is trying to get clarification over."