PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill tenders formal resignation


“It is important that I vacate this seat and that we can move on,” the outgoing Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill tendered his resignation with the country’s Governor-General ending almost eight years as leader of the Pacific nation.

After weeks of political instability and mass defections from his government, 67 members of the 111 seat parliament now support the opposition.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Peter O'Neill at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum last year.

The resignation has thrown a multibillion-dollar French and US-backed gas deal into doubt. 

Powerful regional politicians had baulked at his recent $US13 billion deal with Total and ExxonMobil to extract, pipe and ship liquefied natural gas overseas.

Finance minister James Marape was the first senior cabinet official to resign in protest, saying the money would not go to ordinary Papua New Guineans, local firms or the regions. 

Addressing the opening of parliament, Mr O’Neill informed he had handed his letter of resignation just before the sitting and spoke briefly of his government's achievements, including hosting the 2018 APEC summit, a vast undertaking for a developing country with limited central government capacity. 

“It is important that I vacate this seat and that we can move on,” he concluded.

“God bless our country and thank you”

His resignation comes as a vote of no confidence in his government was lodged by the opposition this morning.

Earlier, Mr O'Neill stalled his announced resignation and took legal action to prevent a vote of no confidence on Tuesday, deepening the country's political crisis.

The veteran leader launched what appeared to be a last-gasp bid to cling on to power, pressing the Supreme Court to thwart a planned parliamentary vote to remove him from office.

Facing mounting criticism, Mr O'Neill on Sunday announced that he would step down, but has so far avoided formally submitting his resignation to the country's governor general.

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