By FRANK SENGE KOLMA
ACTING Prime Minister Sam Abal will put up his hand to be leader of the National Alliance after Sir Michael Somare when the NA party caucus meets later this month, The National reports.
"I will put my hand up.
"I have to and let the people decide," Abal said last night.
The position is vacant by operation of the NA constitution which stipulates that a leader (parliamentary) shall serve for no more than two terms which Sir Michael has done continuously from 2002.
If Sir Michael recovers fully from his heart surgery in Singapore, he can still remain prime minister until next year's general election but he will not be the NA leader.
Sir Michael instructed the party executive in February to begin the process of electing a new leader.
President Simon Kaiwi said last week the process was well advanced and that a meeting of the party caucus, comprising the 42-member parliamentary wing this month in Minj, Western Highlands, would elect a new leader.
Abal has an immediate hurdle to face, however, before he could be nominated for the top post of the party.
He has yet to be a regional deputy, another requirement of the National Alliance constitution, and has to topple current NA highlands leader Don Polye.
That process was to have started last week when a majority of highlands NA MPs met on three separate occasions and asked its current deputy leader, Polye, to call a meeting and put the leadership question to the vote.
Polye is yet to respond.
Meanwhile, the process to ascertain the health status of Sir Michael Somare to satisfy the requirements of the Constitution was progressing, albeit slowly, with Sir Michael's physician Dr Isi Kevau flying to Singapore tomorrow to talk with the prime minister.
He does so without producing a report as requested by cabinet.
Kevau had written to the acting prime minister last Friday to explain that the inviolable medical tradition of doctor-client confidentiality forbade that he produced a report until after he had permission from Sir Michael to do so.
Since he has not talked to Sir Michael, he was unable to meet the cabinet direction.
Abal said last night that Kevau's trip to Singapore was fraught with similar confidentiality issues.
Sir Michael is now a patient of the Raffles Hospital in Singapore.