A Papua New Guinea lawmaker facing a domestic assault charge in Australia will step down during case

A Papua New Guinea lawmaker facing a domestic assault charge in Australia will step down during case

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A minister in Papua New Guinea’s government who has been charged over an alleged domestic assault in Australia will step down from his post while a court case against him unfolds, the country’s prime minister said.

Police in the Australian state of New South Wales said in a statement Saturday that a 58-year-old man was arrested and charged after a domestic dispute in Sydney. A 31-year-old woman known to him had injuries to her face after the altercation, the statement said.

Australian authorities did not name Petroleum Minister Jimmy Maladina as the accused, but his identity was widely reported by news outlets in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Maladina “offered to step aside” from his post as petroleum minister “as he attends to the complaint as it is heard in court in Australia,” Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape said in a written statement Sunday.

Marape would appoint an acting minister, he added. He did not confirm any details of the arrest or alleged assault.

Maladina is due to appear in court Thursday on a charge of assault resulting in bodily harm. He is currently on bail, police said.

He has not responded to requests for comment by The Associated Press. In remarks attributed to him by news outlets in Papua New Guinea, Maladina said he was aware of the reports of his arrest and was “fully cooperating with the authorities.” He did not say whether he would defend the charge.

On Tuesday, Papua New Guinea opposition leader Douglas Tomuriesa urged the Prime Minister to sack Maladina or request his outright resignation rather than allowing him to step aside temporarily.

“While Maladina won’t be performing his ministerial duties, he will still be getting paid as so,” Tomuriesa said in a written statement.

Maladina, a former lawyer and member of Marape’s Pangu Party, became a lawmaker in 2022 and was appointed as a minister in January. Marape directed him to boost the developing country’s efforts to profit from its natural gas resources.

He has been a key ally to Marape, who faced political tumult in May when 18 members of his party defected to the parliamentary opposition in a bid to force a no confidence vote in the Prime Minister.

The attempt to bring the vote was ruled illegitimate. Parliament will next sit in September.

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