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PNG wants to scrap Westminster

PNG Prime Minister, Peter O'neill. Getty Image
PAPUA New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill has asked the nation's Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) to consider scrapping the Westminster system of government in favour of federalism.
Under the proposal, first raised by former prime minister Sir Julius Chan in parliament last week, the prime minister would be directly elected by the people, Mr O'Neill said.

Sir Julius, one of PNG's founding fathers, has been campaigning strongly for a federal system and argued it was fair and representative for PNG and it's more than 850 cultures.

Mr O'Neill said on Tuesday the change will consolidate political stability.

"I fully share (Sir Julius') views because if we are to progress as a nation, we must continue to find ways to improve and consolidate what we have," Mr O'Neill said in a statement on Tuesday night.

"We must never be afraid of change that will bring stability and prosperity for the future."

Mr O'Neill urged the CLRC to undertake a year-long nationwide consultation and report their findings to Parliament.

The Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc has been asked to liaise with the CLRC to work out the Terms of Reference for the consultation.

PNG last week celebrated its 38th year of independence from Australia.

Since then the country has been run by a single House of Parliament, where no one party has achieved the numbers enough to rule outright.

As a result, PNG's parliament has been periodically rocked by sudden and unexpected votes of no confidence as shaky coalitions realign.

In mid 2011 Mr O'Neill came to power by unseating PNG's longest serving PM, Sir Michael Somare, in a vote of no confidence while the veteran MP was in Singapore undergoing heart surgery.

The Supreme Court declared that move illegal, a decision that sparked a prolonged period of political unrest which included a failed military mutiny by supporters of Sir Michael.

At the end of the mid-2012 national election Mr O'Neill returned to the prime minister's chair, at the head of a coalition that included former prime ministers and former enemy Sir Michael.

Mr O'Neill earlier this year used his massive parliamentary majority to ban votes of no confidence in his government for 30 months.

Last week he convinced 82 of his 101 backers to pass constitutional amendments requiring a month's notice by a fifth of parliament to bring a vote of no confidence.

He pledged to resign as PM if ever lost the confidence of 56 of PNG's 111 parliamentarians.

The opposition, which currently number seven, have vowed to fight the vote of no confidence laws in the courts.

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