Papua New Guinea PM Peter O’Neill formally resigns

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has formally resigned, easing a months-long political crisis and calling a major French and US-backed gas deal into doubt.

Facing a vote of no confidence he looked sure to lose, O’Neill on Wednesday told parliament that he had tendered his letter of resignation to the country’s governor general.

A parliamentary vote on a new prime minister is expected to take place in the coming days.

O’Neill had led the country since 2011 but had been criticised for endemic corruption and chronic underdevelopment.

Powerful regional politicians had baulked at his recent $13bn deal with Total and ExxonMobil to extract, pipe and ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) overseas.

Finance Minister James Marape was the first senior cabinet official to resign in protest, saying the money would not go to ordinary Papua New Guineans, local firms or the regions.

A similar deal in the last decade has failed to bring wealth to a country where around 70 percent of people do not have access to reliable electricity.

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