28 Jan 2012

PNG leader wants early poll to solve power struggle

3:35 pm on 28 January 2012

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O'Neill, says he will move to dissolve parliament next month and go to early polls to end the current political impasse.

The veteran politician, Sir Michael Somare, claims to be the legitimate prime minister based on last month's Supreme Court ruling.

But key institutions have opted to keep backing Mr O'Neill as the head of government and he has the backing of the majority of MPs.

Mr O'Neill came to power after Sir Michael was ruled to have missed too many sessions of parliament, while he was out of the country receiving medical treatment.

The National newspaper quotes Mr O'Neill as saying he said he would seek his government's blessing to bring forward the scheduled June general election.

However, a Radio New Zealand International correspondent in Port Moresby said while Mr O'Neill has the backing of a majority of MPs, it is unlikely they would vote to dissolve parliament.

"In Parliament now, nobody wants to prematurely end their term of office, they'd rather see it through until the scheduled election in June, so he can say whatever he wants to say".

Meanwhile, Sir Michael's supporters insist that Colonel Yaura Sasa is still the legitimate commander of the country's Defence Force.

Colonel Sasa and up to 20 soldiers put the head of the defence force Brigadier-General Francis Agwi under house arrest on Thursday in a move linked to the power struggle.

Colonel Sasa claimed to have been appointed Commander by the government of Sir Michael.

But Brigadier-General Agwi has now been freed and the O'Neill government says that police and defence personnel are in the process of apprehending those who conducted the mutiny.