Home > Papua New Guinea, Politics > Government fails to have leader case reheard

Government fails to have leader case reheard

Eoin Blackwell, AAP

The government has failed in a bid to have last year’s constitutional case about who is the country’s legitimate leader reheard, after a judge said allowing it would sanction “legislation by surprise and ambush”.

However, the court has yet to decide on whether the nation’s chief justice, Sir Salamo Injia, and justice Nicholas Kerriwom should step aside amid allegations of bias against the government.

In what was supposed to be the first day of hearings into the legality of parliamentary decisions since the government of Peter O’Neill took office, lawyers instead revisited old ground on Monday.

Government lawyers argued to have the 2011 case be reheard because parliament passed laws disqualifying former prime minister Sir Michael Somare from parliament.

The laws passed three days before the court handed down its December 12 judgment that Sir Michael was unconstitutionally deposed from office and was still PNG’s legitimate prime minister.

The same five-man bench who ruled against the O’Neill government in 2011 also opposed the latest move.

“We are of the unanimous view that there is no need for a separate application at this late juncture,” Justice Bernard Sakora said in reading out the judgment.

“To do so would sanction legislation by surprise and ambush.”

Following a brief adjournment, lawyers for Mr O’Neill applied to have Justice Nicholas Kerriwom removed from hearing the current case due to a perceived apprehension of bias.

On March 13 a document bearing Justice Kerriwom’s signature and calling on judges to defend themselves against attacks from the O’Neill government was leaked online.

The memo, leaked to the blog PNGExposed, calls on the court registrar to take out a full-page advertisement in local newspapers to defend Sir Salamo, whom the government and police have accused of mishandling the funds of a dead judge’s estate.

Attorney General Allan Marat’s lawyer, Tiffany Twivey, argued that the authenticity of the document was not an issue, only that it bore Justice Kerriwom’s signature and had been seen by the public both online and in newspapers.

“The memo is up there and has been commented on by the public,” Ms Twivey said.

“There are statements in the memo that if they are true (show an apprehension of bias).

The court will deliver its judgment on Justice Kerriwom at 9.30am AEST on Tuesday, after which government lawyers are expected to attempt to have Sir Salamo step down.

The latest legal waltz is the most recent in repeated moves to have Sir Salamo removed from the court altogether.

The O’Neill government tried three times to have him removed from hearing the 2011 case.

It then tried and failed to have him removed from the bench.

Police arrested him last month on allegations of perverting the course of their investigation into his handling of funds, but the court issued a permanent stay on that case.

The government last month passed the controversial Judicial Conduct Bill 2012, which effectively gives parliament the power to suspend judges.

After public opposition to the bill – which is seen by many as a way of removing Sir Salamo – Mr O’Neill indicated last week his government would consult more widely before implementing it.

Parliament will resume at 2pm (AEST) on Tuesday.

  1. April 2, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    Why should Oneil consult and decide after 9 months when the people have spoken.
    The legislation shouldn’t meddle with the Judiciary. That has defined the very fabric of our society from other countrys and should be kept so.
    The ONamah regimes attack on one member of the judiciary if allowed will only lead to the cabinet breathing down the neck of the judiciary on vital court decisions.
    This Judiciary conduct bill should be abandoned and never be revisited ever again.

  2. PK
    April 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

    When there is apprehension of bias in the judiciary in any jurisridiction it stands to reason that those that preside and pass judgment cannot be believed or trusted. In PNG in this whole debate, not only is there apprehension but a real perception that Salamo, Kirriwom and Manuhu are not impartial but clearly biased. In a highly fuctioning judiciary the minimum requirement of any individual judge is to protect the interest and standing of the judiciary and resign. WHY are we conveniently avoiding or glossing over this when the long term interest and credibility of the whole judiciary is more important and outweighs the individual positions and standings of individual judges. These individual judges are a discredit to the constitution that provides for judicial independence. Everyone from TI, CCAC to students to the so called civil society have all boarded the same gravy train and are on a feeding frenzy with their eyes shut and their minds and brains numbed by emotion.

    The lengths to which O’Neill and Nama have gone and taken legislative action is extreme. There are already elaborate provisions, processes and proceedings provided for in the Leadership Code that can be used or invoked when there is any breach or allegations of misconduct by the CJ or any of the judges. It may be a long, drawn-out, cumbersome, tedious and tardy process but heck it is there for this purpose.

    PNG needs voices of reason. There appear to be none left in the Parliament and the Judiciary. That is why we have a bun fight which is going to blow up in all of our faces. After all is said and done (and undone!) the real loser will the the country and nation of PNG, not Injia, Kirriwom, Manuhu or O’Neill or Nama. The only beneficiary’s will be opposing lawyers prying in the Court.

  3. April 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Agree with you guys mukoi and pk, the people of this country and it’s constitution have been taken for a rough ride by the politicians and judiciary… Each defending their positions…. The politicians I think started it all and it must end with all of them being replced after June elections!!

  4. Maak Ally
    April 8, 2012 at 4:44 am

    Oh yes, folks all these politicians have to go. None should return, al ot of hoolies…

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