SYDNEY – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill formally submitted on Wednesday his resignation after announcing it on May 26 and then attempting to hold on to his position again, amid a political crisis linked to a multi-billion dollar gas exploration project.
“I want to tell this honorable house and the people of Papua New Guinea that the position of the Prime Minister is vacant,” said Speaker of the Parliament, Job Pomat, after Peter O’Neill submitted his letter of resignation to the Governor-General Bob Dadae.
O’Neill, who served as prime minister for seven years, announced his intention to resign on Sunday to avoid a no-confidence motion against him as announced by the opposition.
On Monday, he appealed the no-confidence motion at the Supreme Court, which was seen by his political rivals as a maneuver to cling on to the post and coincided with the nomination by the opposition of Patrick Pruaitch as an alternative candidate to lead the government.
O’Neill’s resignation puts the future of the multi-billion dollar gas exploration agreement with France’s Total and the American company ExxonMobil in uncertainty, due to strong opposition from several legislators, the Australian public network SBS reported.
The political crisis began in April, after the signing of the gas contract that caused several members of the government to quit and which further strengthened the opposition, leaving O’Neill and his party, the People’s National Congress, a minority in the parliament.
Papua New Guinea, an impoverished nation of 7 million people but rich in natural resources, including large natural gas reserves, has a long history of corruption.
No political party in Papua has ever achieved an absolute majority since its independence in 1975.