By Pacific correspondent Campbell Cooney, staff
Updated 1 hour 12 minutes ago
Papua New Guinea’s veteran prime minister Sir Michael Somare has stepped down from office and will retire from politics because of ill health.
The 75-year-old leader underwent heart surgery earlier this year in a Singapore hospital.
Since then, he has repeatedly denied speculation he is seriously ill.
But Sir Michael’s son, Arthur, told a press conference in Port Moresby his father remains critically ill following the surgery.
He said his father had made the decision to permanently step down from the prime minister’s office and leave PNG politics.
The decision ends a political career which began nearly 50 years ago, and saw Sir Michael appointed as Papua New Guinea’s first prime minister when the country gained independence from Australia in 1975.
In April, Sir Michael served a two-week suspension from office after he was found guilty of official misconduct.
He vowed to return to the prime minister’s office after the suspension, but instead remained in Singapore on medical leave.
It is not known when a decision will be made about his permanent successor, with PNG’s parliament in recess until August, and national elections not expected until the middle of next year.