SBS AUSTRALIA & SOURCES
The Papua New Guinea government has denied rumours of a split within its ranks and that deputy prime minister Belden Namah, seen by many as the architect of the catastrophic parliamentary vote to try to delay the election, had been sacked by Mr O'Neill.
A sombre Mr Namah sat next to a smiling Mr O'Neill at the Guise Stadium in Port Moresby as a protest rally, variously estimated at 4-10.000 people, called upon the government to hold the national elections when they were due and to act with integrity towards the judiciary.
Prime minister Peter O’Neill (after some toing and froing) and electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen, who has remained staunch through some very difficult days, say the nation's election will take place as scheduled in late June.
Thousands of protesters marched on Sir John Guise Stadium in the heart of the city's government district on Tuesday, demanding the government stop interfering in the electoral process and that it roll back laws giving parliament the power to suspend judges.
"(Cabinet), the parliament, does not have the power to direct the electoral commissioner," Prime Minister Peter O'Neill told the crowd.
"Parliament will not interfere with the electoral commissioner."
With 51% of that nation's eligible voters in the highlands, issuing the writs when the rolls aren't ready would be unfair, Mr O'Neill said.
"How do you expect them to vote, what about their rights," he said.
Electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen, addressing the crowd in Tok Pisin, said the election will go ahead as scheduled in late June, but writs will be issued three weeks late to allow for greater public scrutiny of the rolls.
Mr O'Neill also made a conditional promise to repeal the controversial Judicial Conduct Act, a law the government passed, then used to suspend the nation's chief justice, Sir Salamo Injia, and Justice Nicholas Kirriwom.
He said parliament would repeal the law provided Sir Salamo and Justice Kirriwom stepped down voluntarily.
"If they do the right thing, I will do the right thing," he said.
The peaceful, but at times rowdy, protest was made up of a highly sceptical crowd.
Student representative president Emmanuel Issacs told the crowd they would wait to see what parliament did next before deciding on further civil action.
Meanwhile, a scheduled parliamentary sitting was cancelled when an insufficient number of MPs turned up this afternoon.
Parliament is expected to resume tomorrow at 10am.