PNG Catholic Bishops want Somare to step down | Pacific Beat

PNG Catholic Bishops want Somare to step down

PNG Catholic Bishops want Somare to step down

Updated 29 February 2012, 6:55 AEDT

Papua New Guinea's influential Catholic Church is the latest group to call on Sir Michael to resign.

The veteran politician, as you've just heard, continues to insist that he is the legal leader of the country, with the backing of a ruling from the Supreme Court.

But prime minister Peter O'Neill says he is backed by a majority of MPs in parliament, the military, the police, the Governor-General and the public service.

The Archbishop of Port Moresby, John Ribat, says the Catholic Bishops Conference have asked Sir Michael to stand down in his own interests and those of the country.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Archbishop John Ribat, president, Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG

RIBAT: Our minds at this time would be to call on the prime minister, Sir Michael, to retire, to consider his health, he just came from a very big operation and right after the operation he did not have the time to recuperate, he just went straight into the situation we are in now. And in all respect for him as a leader and now as a person who've conditioned by his health, very sick now at this time, we are calling on him to resign and to do it very well because while all this is going on we uphold him as a leader of the nation, prime minister, because of course he's been reinstated by the highest law of the nation, the Supreme Court. And that is very good, it looks very good to all of us and because that's the constitution, he's reinstated through the judiciary. For him to be able to accept it and resign while all these tensions and turmoil developing and so on, I believe it will be a good thing for him because he will go out gracefully and in a way people will hold him with that respect and remember him as the father of the nation.

HILL: By saying this is the church taking sides politically, or do you see this as just a neutral suggestion for the good of the whole country?

RIBAT: We are not taking sides, we are seeing it as a neutral position for the whole country. We are seeing it as a position that is neutral and it is good for the whole country and taking into account that Sir Michael has done his best over the years until today. And now this time he's very handicapped by his health and also I think it is time for him to give space to new upcoming leaders. And really for him our calling is actually on a neutral ground, calling on him to consider this very gracefully, not to take it as an insult or whatever, but as a way to really see him go out respectfully and in a way that we hold him with high regard in that way.

HILL: Sir Michael still firmly insists that he is the legal prime minister. Do you think it's likely that he is going to listen to your advice that he should resign?

RIBAT: He is still, and of course by law, he is still the legal prime minister, no one can take that away from him. But the thing is considering on the other hand most of the parliament members, those who were with him have left to join the other side. And really there is great support for Peter O'Neill, then the support for the prime minister himself. So for myself, for my fathers, how can you bring this together to a peaceful end when the other party is insisting that we are the majority and also Sir Michael's is the minority group? How do you see this coming to a peaceful end? Now this will only make it more difficult. And so for Sir Michael to be able to see and knowing that he's the prime minister of the nation, the parliament is seeing it very differently and they're moving away from his party. And the sensible thing to do here for this to happen is for him to resign graciously in the way that I said that the nation will see him doing this for the good of the nation as the Catholic Church is asking him to do.

HILL: Many other people have asked him to resign, he hasn't paid attention to them. Do you think that he will pay attention to the church though?

RIBAT: Maybe this time I believe he will be able to consider it because we have spoken, the Catholic bishops and I have spoken openly about this. This is the first time we have mentioned it openly to the nation and to him, and that is why now he is calling me to go and discuss this further.

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