Home > Corruption, Papua New Guinea > O’Neill shreds the Constitution and takes control of the courts

O’Neill shreds the Constitution and takes control of the courts


Papua New Guinea has become an executive dictatorship after the government granted itself the power to suspend judges, the country’s opposition says.

The government’s move is being interpreted as a broadside against the nation’s Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, following the leaking of court documents and the quashing of an investigation into his financial dealings.

The law, introduced on Tuesday and passed three times by a vote of 63/7 on Wednesday, gives PNG’s parliament the power to refer a judge to the governor-general, who in turn must appoint a tribunal to investigate the judge, who would be suspended from duty.

Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu is in little doubt the government will move quickly to oust Sir Salamo.

“I think that will happen very quickly,” she told journalists on Wednesday.

One of the few who got the opportunity to speak against the law, Dame Carol said it removed vital checks and balances and focuses total power in one arm of government.

“If checks and balances are not working, we’re in an executive dictatorship,” she said.

“It is not in the interests of PNG remaining a truly democratic country.

“We will have judges afraid to toe the line.”

The government says the law will “promote the integrity of our legal system based on the principle that an independent, fair and competent judiciary shall interpret and apply the laws that govern us”.

It lays out a set of nine “impartiality” rules judges must obey, the breaching of which will allow parliament to make a referral to the governor general.

Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah in a newspaper advertisement on Monday accused two judges, Nicholas Kirriwom and George Manuhu of “judicial corruption”, and called on them and the chief justice to resign.

One MP, Andrew Kumbakor, expressed outrage over the passage of the bill.

“It is ridiculous that an independent arm of government should be singled out in this instance while public servants and members of parliament do not have an act of parliament as such to scrutinise their behaviour and conduct in public office that forces them to stand down from their duties,” he said.

“Until the full implications of this bill are understood and proper public debate takes place, I will seek further legal advice and will take ensure a stay order on the implementation of the bill is in place until we assess the constitutionality of the bill’s passage.”

Since the government of Peter O’Neill took office on August 2, 2011, it has locked horns with Sir Salamo.

It tried three times to have him removed from overseeing the five-man bench constitutional hearings into whether previous prime minister Sir Michael Somare was legally dumped from office.

When that failed, and about a month before Sir Salamo handed down a 3/2 decision ruling in Sir Michael’s favour, he ordered the deputy prime minister Belden Namah and attorney general Allan Marat arrested.

The pair were charged with contempt after they first aired allegations into the alleged financial misconduct and tried to suspend the chief justice.

Police formally arrested Sir Salamo two weeks ago and charged him with attempting to pervert the course of justice over an investigation into his handling of 213,000 kina ($A94,000) meant for the son of a dead judge.

  1. Clancey
    March 22, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I agree with this new law because the CJ and the Judges in recent past have put themselves out as supreme and can push the parliament and Executive around. They have grown accustomed to issuing stay and or restraining orders to stop cases against them or people their are aligned to. The parliament is supreme and must remain supreme on our land with regards the three arms of government.

    The good thing about this new law too is that no one will be thrown in jail straight away but every judge will be accorded the opportunity to clear themselves through a legally constituted Leadership Tribunal, hopefully chaired by neutral people not aligned with the government or the judges.

    Enough of the CJ and the judges misusing their inherent powers at their disposal to stall any investigations against them or to protect their interests and those whom they support.

    Real justice must be dispensed from the place where every one must get real justice, that is, the courts.

    This is a check and balances system for the judges. Otherwise, they will run riot with partial decisions which may prevent real justice for the aggrieved.

    This is a step in the right direction for this nation.

  2. Tanirau
    March 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

    What crap. This law puts judges, as a class, under the control of politicians who are, as a class, generally pond scum. If anyone is to be pushing anyone else around, I’d much rather it be judges pushing around politicians rather than the other way around.

  3. March 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Clancey, you a in a dream world… The majority of the pollies are a bunch of self serving lunatics..and you want them to control our judges and judicial system?? The biggest problem in this country is political interference in every aspect of governance and development , and now the web of corruption has extended it’s tentacles into the judiciary so mark my words, now the judges will be scared to decide impartially on cases against the Oneil/Nama govt (or any govt for that matter! ) or anybody linked to ministers in the NEC because that’s where the power is now… isn’t the ombudsman commission, and public prosecutor already there to keep leaders under check? Who has failed this country in the last 30 yrs, is it the judiciary or the politicians?? Who needs more laws to keep them under more scrutiny, is it the pollies or judges?? Who has squandered billions of development money??. Etc etc.

  4. Clancey
    March 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Watching, no, this is reality which you need to wake up to. Corruption is creeping into the Judiciary. Look at what the CJ has been doing. He has been sitting to hear cases involving him which is a conflict of interest. He has been getting restraining or stay orders without the substantive cases being allowed for a proper trial. Is he above the law? He is known to have literally sided with certain parties in some cases because they bought him properties in Oz land. But that’s a story for another day. The judiciary was ok before, not any more. The Ombudsman and the Public Prosecutor are sleeping. How many cases have they prosecuted successfully? There has been infighting within the Ombudsman and the Public Prosecutors office. Besides, the new law provides for a Check and Balances system for the judges. If they’re acquitted, then they’re free. If they have made decisions according to law on the back of credible evidences, than there’s no need to be worried or jittery. The time for these judges to make one sided decisions has come to an end. Real justice should be dispensed from here on. Otherwise, get rid of the corrupt judges immediately using this new law. Yes, corrupt judges can now get scared because the spotlight is now upon you. Some of you really believe that the judges are untouchables and every decision they make is correct and final? Not any more.

  5. March 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    I think Clancy is too blind to see the real motive behind this new piece of legislation.
    Do you really think the cabinet want to enact this piece of legislation for good of this nation? This regime has been fighting the judiciary since coming to power last year. This is a typical PNGean act of revenge on an enemy.
    The politicians also has been using stay orders and restraining orders to buy time when they are prosecuted for misuse, stealing etc.
    If after this law is passed, lets see how much will be left in the coffers and see if any sitting politician will end up in jail. Parliament will be supreme over the courts!

  6. March 23, 2012 at 12:04 am

    If you have the copy of the new law then paste it on the blog here for all to see, in that way we can all see what is in it.. It’s seems rather rushed with very little public awareness and debate…sounds all too familiar!

  7. March 23, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Clancy, you must understand, there are already enough laws and provisions to keep a check on judges… They cannot be influenced or pressured in their jobs by politicians as they do for departmental heads! If you had a lawsuit against a government minister or someone with connections to them(such as if they still your money or wife etc),you will almost certainly lose..! This new law is a self serving law specifically to protect the pollies themselves!! Maybe you are one of the 63 MPs who voted for the law??

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