Monday, August 08, 2011

Court dismisses Abal’s case


WABAG MP Sam Abal's­ fight in the Waigani National Court to restrain Prime Minister Peter O'Neill from exercising his powers was dismissed last Friday, The National reports.
The ruling was made after the court found that the orders sought by the plaintiff would only add to the constitutional crisis and crumble the parliament and the state. 
It found that constitutional provisions under section 142 used to raise the questions on the vacancy was contradicted by Abal himself when he had taken part in the election process of O'Neill last Tuesday. 
It was pointed out that Abal, in remaining in parliament and ta­king part in voting in his capacity as the (then) acting prime minister, indicated that the prime minister's post was vacant when he had had the opportunity to walk out. 
The ruling was deli­vered after 5pm on the same day because Abal's lawyer Davis Stevens, from Stevens Lawyers, had made a request that the orders sought were urgent. 
Presiding Judge Les Gavara-Nanu made the ruling after adjourning the court twice during the hearing. 
The first adjournment was for lawyers to sort out a confusion when Kelly Naru from Naru Lawyers explained his appearance at the bar table was to represent a party that intended to be the third defendant. 
The first and second defendants were speaker Jeffery Nape and O'Neill. 
The third party was the clerk of the parliament. 
When court resumed, lawyers, Stevens, Manuel Varitimos and Naru sat before the judge together after having had their discussions. 
The arguments raised by Stevens were that the confusion on the vacancy of the prime minister's post needed time for legal analysis and wanted  injunctive orders and declarations to be made on the powers vested in the prime minister and the speaker from being exercised. 
These included the appointment and swearing in of ministers, and any other responsibilities of O'Neill as prime minister. 
Steven sought orders to restrain the parliament clerk and servants of the parliament from carrying out instructions from either O'Neill or Nape. 
The orders sought went as far as to restrain the government printer from publishing the gazetting of the ministers appointed by O'Neill. 
Varitimos argued that his clients followed the normal parliamentary procedure to have the new government in place. 
He said the orders sought by Abal were ridiculous because the head of state had accepted the election as valid and had sworn-in the new prime minister. 
He highlighted the fact that Sir Michael Somare should have been the plaintiff because the prime minister's post was his and not Abal's to fight over. 
Varitimos said the orders sought by Abal would paralyse parliament because ministers had already been appointed by the new prime minister, sworn-in by the governor-general and published in the national gazette. 
Gavara-Nanu stressed that the office of the prime minister, speaker and the function of parliament could not be held to ransom due to a fight over power. 
Gavara-Nanu said if the prime minister, speaker and clerk of parliament were restrained from doing their duties, the nation would be held to undue ransom. 
He said there was no guarantee when the argument over the vacancy would come to an end and he was not convinced by the application.
Gavara-Nanu said the appointments by the governor-general as head of state would be made unconstitutional if the court entertained Abal's application. 
He pointed out that some NA members who broke away from the Somare-Abal government had been appointed and sworn-in as ministers in the new government in which numerical strength and stalwartness promised more chaos in parliament.
Abal's application was thus dismissed.

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