By JULIA DAIA BORE and JACOB POK
ATTEMPTS by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to stop the leadership tribunal from hearing charges of misconduct in office against him yesterday have been rejected, The National reports.
Responding to an application by the prime minister’s legal team to stay the hearing until a 2008 matter relating to the charges and the referral by the Ombudsman Commission are heard by the Supreme Court, tribunal chairman Roger Gyles said the tribunal “will proceed until such time when there is a National Court order” in place.
The denial of the request by the defence team, headed by Australian counsel Ian Molloy, came after the prime minister’s lawyers could not produce proof that there was written correspondence between Sir Michael and the ombudsman explaining the reasons over the leader’s failure in submitting his annual returns for the period specified in the charges.
Midway into the tribunal hearing yesterday morning, the defence team had requested for an adjournment to produce a letter from their office. However, upon reconvening after 30 minutes, Molloy informed the tribunal panel that they could not locate the letter.
“You mean to say there is no such letter?” tribunal co-judge Sir Robin Auld asked Molloy, who said that was what it seemed like.
Gyles then ruled that the stay application be shelved.
The tribunal also deferred its decision to have the prime minister suspended from office, according to section 142(6) of the constitution, to next Monday when both parties had presented their arguments.
Responding to an application by the public prosecution team, headed by Kaluwin Pondros, to effect the suspension, Molloy argued that such a move would not be in the best interest of Sir Michael in his current role as prime minister and that of the public.
Both parties were then directed to present their arguments next Monday before a ruling could be made on the application.
The tribunal reconvened at 1.30pm yesterday for Kaluwin to present all individual charges against the prime minister.
Hearing was suspended when Molloy asked for an adjournment to 1.30pm today to await the arrival of an accountant from Australia to be the prime minister’s witness. The accountant is expected in Port Moresby at 8.30am today.
* Failing without reasonable excuse to give annual statements to the Ombudsman Commission – under which there were five separate instances;
*Failure to give annual statements, at least once in every period of 12 months – eight individual charges were cited; and
*Incomplete annual statements – 12 individual charges listed.
The tribunal continues today.