Appointment of care-taker government, illegal: Former CJ

The announcement by Peter O’Neill to step down as Prime Minister and appoint New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan as the acting Prime Minister is unconstitutional and illegal according to former Chief Justice and Madang Governor, Sir Arnold Amet.

Sir Arnold clarified that under Section 146 of the constitution, the resignation will only be effective, once it is sent in writing to the Head of State of Papua New Guinea, who is the Governor General.

Sir Arnold added that the announcement by O’Neill to step down on Sunday was not effective.


“An announcement that the Prime Minister intends to resign has no effect until such time he actually tenders the resignation in writing to the Head of State and that could be anytime. There is no time limit.”

He also clarified that the announcement of care-taker Government and appointment of Sir Julius Chan as acting Prime Minister was also wrong and unconstitutional. “No such power in the Prime Minister to appoint himself an acting Prime Minister or a care-taker prime minister,” he said.

Sir Arnold said that under the Prime Minister and NEC Act, the deputy Prime Minister becomes the acting Prime Minister, ONLY, when the Prime Minister is out of the country.

“Even when he tenders his resignation, he remains Prime Minister until Parliament appoints a new Prime Minister on the floor of Parliament. So the process will be, the resignation will be standard by writing to the Head of State, who then informs the Speaker and because the House is in session, the Speaker will inform the House and Parliament will appoint the new Prime Minister on the next sitting day after the resignation is formalized by the Head of State.”

Sir Arnold reiterated that right now, there is no resignation and no care-taker government.

Meantime, New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan has clarified that he is not Acting Prime Minister, although he acknowledged that he is honoured to be considered as the Governments alternate when the resignation of PM takes place. 

Sir Julius in a statement said he has not been designated any Ministerial role by Peter O’Neill. Sir Julius clarified that the existing Prime Minister has no power to nominate a new Prime Minister of his choice, but simply designated him the provisional caretaker of the Government Coalition. 

Sir Julius said O’Neill simply asked him 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.

Freddy Mou