Body found at home of acting PNG Prime Minister

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 12:38 AM
Body found at home of acting PNG Prime Minister

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea police are investigating the murder of woman at the home of the country's acting prime minister, compounding an uncertain future for the Pacific nation under an ailing leader.

Sam Abal, acting leader while Prime Minister Michael Somare recovers from heart surgery in Singapore, said he was not at the home in the capital Port Moresby when the body was found.

Police Commissioner Anthony Wagambie said on Wednesday police were searching for Abal's son Teo to question him. Police have described their inquiries as a murder investigation.

Papua New Guinea, which shares the island of New Guinea with Indonesia, is rich in resources and site of a $15 billion LNG project, led by Exxon Mobil which is due to produce 6.6 million tonnes a year from 2014.

Somare, its founding leader in 1975, has led the country for half of its time as an independent nation.

His prolonged illness has prompted jostling for his position and local media say his family has urged Somare, 75, to retire.

Last week Abal sacked leadership rival, Foreign Minister Don Poyle, and Resources Minister William Duma from the cabinet.

In a statement reported by PNG media, Abal said he had contacted police about the woman's death at his home.

"All family members living with me are immediate suspects and are subject to investigation and questioning by police," he said, pledging to cooperate with the investigation.

Wagambie said a witness had seen Teo Abal and the woman walking in the garden of the Port Moresby home, and then heard a woman's scream from the garden. Wagambie confirmed the acting prime minister was not at home at the time of the incident.

"The acting prime minister was away for the long weekend when the incident occurred," Wagambie said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Ron Popeski)