Asia-Pacific

Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neill resigns

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The prime minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O'Neill has resigned, following weeks of turmoil in his government.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has resigned, citing a need for change, after weeks of unrest in the government.

He announced his resignation after seven years at a press conference in Port Moresby on Sunday, and has handed over the leadership to Sir Julius Chan, who becomes prime minister for the third time.

The news follows weeks of turmoil in O'Neill's People's National Congress Party, with several ministers in the coalition quitting.

O'Neill's authority was expected to be tested in parliament on Tuesday, with the opposition thought to have enough votes to control the floor of parliament to mount a vote of no confidence.

Much of the concern about O'Neill's government has reportedly been unease over a recent natural gas development deal with France's Total and its partners.

Finance Minister James Marape defected in April in the wake of the gas deal, while other government MPs followed him out the door over recent weeks - including nine on Friday.

Peter O'Neill and Scott Morrison at the 2018 APEC summit.
Peter O'Neill and Scott Morrison at the 2018 APEC summit.
AAP

O'Neill, who had been resisting calls to quit, at the beginning of May adjourned parliament for three weeks. It was due to sit again on Tuesday.

The ABC reported then that Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said the opposition had submitted a notice of its vote of no confidence and was committed to ousting O'Neill when parliament returned on May 28.

In a statement on Sunday O'Neill said he intended to visit the governor-general this week to clear the way for parliament to vote for the next prime minister, with Chan his nominee.

Peter O'Neill in Port Moresby.
Peter O'Neill in Port Moresby.
AAP

He said PNG needed a continuation of the stability his government had provided since 2011.

"The point must be made very clearly that this is not a change of government, it is the continuation of a government agenda that has changed our nation for the better.

O'Neill said there was "no way that I could stand by and allow the opposition to come into government with their dangerous mix of wild ideas."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to O'Neill, saying he had been "a passionate servant of his country".

He said he would not comment on who would succeed him, but said Australia would continue to enjoy a strong relationship.

"PNG is our closest friend and neighbour, there is just a small body of water that is between us and PNG, and we have a special relationship, and always will," he said.

"I will look forward to working with the prime minister of PNG in the same way I have enjoyed such a strong friendship and relationship with Peter O'Neill."

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