|Australian-born Dame Carol Kidu is PNG's new opposition leader. [AFP: Torsten Blackwood]|
Dame Carol Kidu has been announced as Papua New Guinea's new opposition leader. It is the first time in six months the position has been filled in PNG. Speaker Jeffery Nape formally recognised Dame Carol Kidu as the new Opposition Leader on Wednesday. Dame Carol is the only female MP in Papua New Guinea and has been championing a women's bill to boost female representation in parliament. The bill would set aside 22 seats in Parliament for women but has failed to get enough numbers to pass through parliament on three separate occasions.
Dame Carol told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that her first task is to restore credibility and confidence in the Office of the Leader of Opposition and bring back parliamentary debate on the floor of parliament. "I am retiring from politics, I'm not going to be out campaigning," she said. "I have four months until August when I will still be on payroll for Papua New Guinea; I can really focus on looking at how we can strengthen the functioning of the opposition in PNG. "Because we know that to have a vibrant democracy it's not just about having elections. We've got to have those back checks and balances on the floor, and I think the opposition needs to be strengthened."
The opposition benches have been vacant since the former prime minister Sir Michael Somare was replaced by Peter O'Neill in August last year. Since then, Sir Michael and his supporters have maintained they are the legitimate government and have seated themselves in the middle benches in protest. Dame Carol was a minister in the Somare government but has said the country needs an active opposition. She told parliament she will do her best in her new role in the few months left before the general election. But her first questions to the prime minister on electoral issues were ruled invalid by the speaker because she'd asked for a legal opinion.
Sir Michael's seat was declared vacant while he received medical treatment in Singapore. The supreme court subsequently declared him the rightful leader, plunging the country into turmoil before Mr O'Neill eventually resumed the role after governor-general Michael Ogio backtracked on Sir Michael's appointment. Mr O'Neill has remained the effective prime minister with the support of the public service, police, defence force and most MPs despite attempts by Sir Michael, including a botched coup, to return to power.
[Australia Network News, PNG correspondent Liam Fox and staff]
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