Papua New Guinea’s National Alliance Party has expelled 19 MPs for supporting the Opposition to topple the government of former and ailing prime minister Sir Michael Somare.
In August, the MPs joined with the Opposition to elect prime minister Peter O’Neill.
On Wednesday, they further infuriated Sir Michael’s supporters by supporting Speaker Jeffery Nape as he disqualified the former PM as an MP for absenteeism.
The Speaker disqualified Sir Michael for missing three consecutive sittings.
Sir Michael, 75, had only just returned to PNG after a lengthy stay overseas where he underwent three heart operations.
National Alliance Party President Simon Kaiwe says the now-expelled group acted against the interests of the party.
“They’ve shown disrespect to the party that they’ve been part of, they’ve not acted in the interests of the party,” he said.
“And what they’ve done [in supporting the disqualification of Sir Michael is] to disregard and disrespect the party. So in that view, the executive has taken the position that we expel all the members involved.”
Earlier, Sir Michael’s family vowed to fight his controversial disqualification from parliament.
His son, Arthur Somare, who is also an MP, says he has advice from the clerk of parliament that Sir Michael has only missed two sittings.
“This is an issue that will be challenged,” he said.
“It will be challenged in the courts of Papua New Guinea.”
Somare believes the real motive behind the disqualification is to derail a legal challenge to his father’s removal from the prime minister’s office last month.
Only hours before the disqualification, Sir Michael had briefly appeared in parliament to avoid being disqualified, but he had left by the time of the speaker’s shock announcement.
Sir Michael had entered parliament in a wheelchair and sat at the back of the chamber.
He had returned to PNG over the weekend after a five-month stay in Singapore where he underwent heart surgery.
Looking frail, the 75-year-old shook hands with Peter O’Neill, the man who replaced him as prime minister last month.
The speaker attempted to explain why the PM’s office had been declared vacant last month but was shouted down by members of the former Somare government.
The members called the speaker a disgrace and told him to shut up because the legality of Sir Michael’s removal was before the supreme court.