Home > Papua New Guinea > PNG govt calls on judges to resign

PNG govt calls on judges to resign

Eoin Blackwell, AAP 

Papua New Guinea’s Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah has called on three judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, to resign.

In a full-page press statement in the Port Moresby-based The National newspaper, Mr Namah accuses Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justices Nicholas Kirriwom and George Manuhu of “judicial corruption”.

Mr Namah also calls for the resignation of the registrar of the Supreme and National courts.

The 361-word statement is the latest public salvo in an ongoing dispute between high-ranking officials of PNG’s judicial system and elements of the national executive.

Police two weeks ago arrested Sir Salamo and court registrar Ian Augerea on allegations of misappropriating funds belonging to a deceased justice’s estate, releasing them soon after.

The court then placed a permanent stay on the case, calling the police investigation an abuse of process because the funds were correctly handled.

Citing an email allegedly written by Justice Manuhu and shared among judges, Mr Namah said it showed justices agreed that Sir Salamo had acted incorrectly in handling the funds, but had banded together to publicly protect him.

“Justice Manuhu on July 9, 2009 sent an email to then Justice Mark Sevua and Bernard Sakora that the `action of the registrar at the direction of the chief justice is contemptuous of the highest order’,” the statement bearing Mr Namah’s signature says.

Justice Kerriwom should resign because a leaked internal court memo written by him called for the court to unify and defend itself against the “regime” of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

“This is not an attack on Sir Salamo Injia or the chief justice. It is an attack on the third arm of government by the executive, and we are sitting back and absorbing it all like always,” the memo said.

“There is a hidden agenda in all these persistent moves to oust the (chief justice) that we are not being told, but will become obvious in the not-too-distant future.”

Mr Namah could not be reached for comment.

As chief justice, Sir Salamo presided over last year’s Supreme Court battle that found Sir Michael Somare was unconstitutionally dumped from office following a vote by the majority of parliament.

The government tried to have him removed from the case three times and have twice ordered him to step down, only to have their announcement batted aside by the judiciary.

Sir Michael’s son, suspended MP Arthur Somare, said the attacks on the judiciary were a first in PNG’s 36 year-old democracy.

“Mr Namah is deliberately gnawing away at the independence of institutions that define our democracy,” he said.

“He cannot meddle in the internal workings of the judiciary. Judges are allowed to consult with each other. His utter contempt against the judiciary is dangerous for PNG’s future.”

Sir Michael’s choice for attorney-general, Sir Arnold Amet, said attempts to sideline the judiciary raised the possibility the government might try to defer the 2012 election.

“Consistent with the actions of the regime, we cannot rule out the possibility that an attempt may be made to defer elections by sidestepping the rule of law and the constitution,” he said.

The chief public proponent of deferring PNG’s June polls, Mr Namah recently announced the elections will take place as scheduled and that he had no power to stop them.

Parliament resumes on March 20.

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  1. Belden Namah
    March 20, 2012 at 7:16 am

    I, Belden Namah should resign myself, instead of calling the judges to resign. I have caused more blunders in PNG political history in a few months I have been the DPM. In other democratic countries, I would have resigned myself long time ago. In PNG, nobody has the guts and courage to ask me to step down. You are all cowards. So I can muck around and still hold onto the DPM. Watch out after 2012 election. I will come in numbers with my party and I will win.

  2. PK
    March 20, 2012 at 11:04 am

    There is a time-honoured notion and tradition – in fact a covenant if we may based on common sense and sensibility – that for the three arms of government to function they must have deference, confidence and comity for one another. IN particular though, the Legislature and the Executive must have confidence that the Judiciary and the justices’ decisions, judgments, adjudications, arbitrations and calls in the administration of justice must not only be seen to be fair and impartial but be beyond reproach.

    When there are questions raised and perceptions created in the public domain by citizens (be they politicians, crims, crooks, squatters, aliens, etc.) concerning the impartiality and fairness (not to mention competence) of judges the larger question then becomes whether the judiciary can be trusted as a fair, competent and independent arbiter in its superintendence, administration and carriage of justice in its society. Following what has transpired so far, I would think the judiciary is not!

    Some of the justices including those named and whose scalps are being sought by Nama have become clearly embroiled with their angst, emotion and even how their cloak and gown may be getting the better part of them. They seemingly cannot be qualified to sit in judgment on matters to do with or involving any members of the present government.

    With Kirriwom he has put his views in print, and never mind if what he has said or not said is ambiguous or implicates him or not. With Manuhu he cannot afford to go doing somersaults and back flips in the court room or in the confines of his chamber, saying one thing today and something exactly the opposite tomorrow.

    Manuhu is insensitive and wrong, wrong, and wrong! in giving the matter to do with CJ a permanent stay of execution. All he has succeeded to do is create the impression of bias or that the judges are hiding something or they simply do not have the will or competence to handle matters when it involves their own.

    I mean, for Crissakes, these guys are not infallible.

    We are not asking them to miff, douse, smother and muzzle their lips and tongues. They just must should exercise better judgment, caution and some temperance; keep some distance and aloofness in any debate their brother JJs may have become embroiled in that every man and his dog in the street are also very publicly commenting and forming a view on.

    If one has to hazard a suggestion or view how the PNG Judiciary has handled the whole political saga from Singapore to Parliament to Wewak to the concrete jungle of the National and Supreme Court buildings in Waigani, I would rate the behaviour and temperament (and even performance) of judiciary a poor 5.3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Clearly there are JJs untainted by this but there are those clearly contributing to the perception of certain members of the judiciary demise. One must wonder if there isn’t a pecking order or a corporate judicial ladder where the CJ places his brother (and sister) judges. It is dizzyingly worrying.

  3. bobby kents
    March 20, 2012 at 11:39 am

    i could’nt agree anymore with the comments above, i totally agree with the comments made above but only would like to add that one other judge thatr should resign should be justice davani for for recognizing yakasa when the political impasse was at its peak. what judge in any country would deliberatly try and creat havoc in his or aher country and allow the constitution to be thrown into gutters. if the cj has nothing to hide why the big issue, allow other judges to preside over the case and settle it once. cj and the judiciary definately have something to hide so it seems. the general perception is the judiciary is gone, parliamentary democracy is intact and robast. true and true PNGean

  4. March 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Interesting comments there Bob… If judiciary is ‘gone’ as you put it then we are left at the mercy of politicians wether corrupt or not! Could you also advocate for the all the prisons to be open the the inmates set free because as you put it there is no more judiciary independence, thanks to the continuous harassment and undermining by the Oneil/Nama team?? We are threading dangerous waters here folks…. Someone needs to maintain peace, order and justice, and be a pillar of strenght in the society and I think the politicians have failed to do that time and time again…

  5. PK
    March 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Let’s read some of the stuff Kirriwom J downloaded from his head onto his memo. He says, for example: “This regime is in a way like a runaway puppet..” Surely to goodness this isn’t the sort of utterance that should come out of the head and mouth of a learned, independent and impartial judge. He can’t be but biased to his bones and veins. It’s obnoxious. Take another one: “SC must convene immediately and summon Tom Kulunga and charge him with contempt”. My gosh, my gosh, Mr Kulunga is not ever going to get a fair and decent trial. It sounds oh so like premediated murder and Kirriwom is like an an accesory to the premeditated crime. It’s all in indelible black print. Kulunga’s lawyer must fight tooth and nail to press for a mistrial no matter which judge presides over this.

    AND another missiv from Kirriwom J: …”we need to demonstrate more of a collegiality in this war.” Well, well! The CJ should have come out and kicked Kirriwom’s head in. Has he? Did he? No, instead the CJ called all the resident judges to converge in Moresby and don battle gear and fatigues to answer Kirriwom’s call to go to “war”.

    Observation: In other comparable jurisdictions Kirriwom J, Manuhu J and CJ would (and should) have resigned. They have virtually disqualified themselves from sitting as Judges in the matters that call for fierce and fearless independence, fairness and impartiality. Kirriwom and Manuhu especially. Kirriwom’s memo reads and sounds too much like a muddled political speech being delivered on the floor of Parliament.

    The Judiaciary as an institution must be protected and defended. Those that compromise its integrity and independence have no place in it. This might sound too simplistic or altruistic but it is an important measure, criterion and precept that a reasonable person has to apply to a profession that must not only be seen to be beyond reproach but whose utterances and actions, whether in public or private, must be beyond reproach. There is always a certain point beyond which redemption may no longer be possible.
    PK

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