By JULIA DAIA BORE
ANGORAM MP and Minister of Public Enterprises Arthur Somare will face the leadership tribunal, The National reports.
The Waigani National Court has dismissed all the grounds of bias the minister had claimed in seeking a judicial review against the Ombudsman Commission in his last-ditch attempt to stop his referral.
The ruling effectively meant that the leadership tribunal, set up on Sept 15, 2006, by the chief justice to deal with Somare’s alleged official misconduct relating to the disbursement and acquittals of the district support grants, would now resume.
However, Somare would not step down automatically as a leader, as per a recent three-judge Supreme Court decision on March 31.
Then justices Bernard Sakora, Salatiel Lenalia and George Manuhu ruled on the Patrick Pruaitch matter which set a precedent that the “question of a leader’s suspension takes place when the tribunal, hearing the leader’s case, convenes and seizes jurisdiction to decide whether to suspend the leader”.
Lawyers dealing with the matter last Friday said the matter was now in the chief justice’s jurisdiction.
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia had appointed the tribunal members but, with the retirement of chairman Sir Kululan Los, a replacement was needed.
Other tribunal members included district magistrates Orim Karapo and Noreen Kanasa.
In his decision handed down last Friday, Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika said: “The decision to refer, in my respectful opinion, is not unreasonable and capricious in the circumstances and, as such, the OC did not act in excess of its jurisdiction to refer.
“In the end result, all the grounds for judicial review are dismissed as having no merit,” Salika said, and ordered Somare to pay the costs of the judicial review bid.
He also asked: “Was the referral unreasonable?
“Again, taking into account all that happened from May 27, 2005, up to Feb 28, 2006, the evidence did not support an unreasonable referral. I reject this contention as well.”
On the issue of whether the decision to refer Somare was capricious; Salika ruled: “Capricious is an adjective and comes from the noun caprice, which means – sudden change in attitude or behaviour with no obvious cause (taken from Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary).
“Was the decision to refer the applicant to the public prosecutor capricious?
“Again, from all of the evidence, with respect, I do not think the decision to refer (by OC to public prosecutor) was capricious.”
Salika said: “It was obvious the OC was going to have to make a decision sooner and it did.
“In that regard, I do not consider the decision to refer to be capricious. The commission received the relevant acquittal documents and, therefore, made the decision to refer.
“The decision to refer was not unreasonable and capricious in the circumstances and, as such, the OC did not act in excess of its jurisdiction to refer,” Salika said.
The OC, on its own initiative, conducted investigations into the accessibility and application of the 2002 district support grants by all 109 members of parliament.
As 2002 was a general election year, and there was much concern raised over the misappropriation of the 2002 DSG funds before the general election, the OC decided that it would put out a stop to the payment of the DSG if it sent out a directive.
Following this, notices were publicised in the media of its intentions and follow-up of investigations established with the relevant leaders; Somare was listed number 16 on the directives sent out to the leaders.
In February 2005, the OC served on Somare, his right to be heard notice dated Feb 11, 2005, with allowance of 21 days for Somare to respond.