Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Chief Justice charged


CHIEF Justice Sir Salamo Injia was arrested by police yesterday and charged with perverting the course of justice, The National reports.
 He is expected to appear in the Waigani committal court today.
Sir Salamo was picked up around 8am by armed policemen and escorted to the police headquarters at Konedobu for questioning.
The questioning took four hours before he was taken to the Boroko police station where he was charged. He was later bailed on his own recognisance.
The charge relates to a decision he made in 2099 relating to the estate of the late National and Supreme Court judge Justice Timothy Hinchliffe.
Police alleged that Sir Salamo, National Court registrar Ian Augerea and others had “conspired to pervert the course of justice by circumventing a National Court order issued by then National Court judge Justice Mark Sevua in 2009 who granted probate to the will of the late Hinchliffe to a Timothy Moere Sari Junior.”
Sari Junior was Hinchliffe’s adopted son. He had lodged a complaint with police.
Police alleged that on May 11, 2009, Sevua issued a National Court order for the National Judicial Staff Services to pay Hinchliffe’s entitlements totalling K213,069 to Sari Junior’s account.But Sir Salamo, in his capacity as chief justice, allegedly directed the registrar of the National Court to recall the cheque.
Police alleged that Sir Salamo instructed that a new cheque of the same amount be raised and paid into the NJSS trust account.
Police said their attempts to investigate the case were frustrated when the National Court issued a stay order restraining police from pursuing the case further.
Police in a statement yesterday said: “Having thoroughly perused the initial investigation file, police are of the view that the actions of the chief justice … in circumven­ting a valid and legitimate order of the court is not only contemptuous but criminal in nature.”
Police, however, did not state who issued the order for Sir Salamo’s arrest and when the order was issued.
When asked to comment yesterday about his arrest and subsequent charge, Sir Salamo said he had nothing to say.
Upon learning of Sir Salamo’s arrest, some employees of the NJSS suggested to stop work in protest over the manner in which he was arrested.
But National Court registrar Ian Augerea denied that a protest was planned.
He said the manner in which Sir Salamo was arrested showed disrespect for the highest office of the judiciary.
“The chief justice is the head of the third arm of the government and the manner in which he was treated today (yesterday) has brought great concern and alarm to the judiciary and should be a matter of concern for all citizens of this country.
“The manner in which the chief justice was treat­-
ed brings into disrepute the integrity of the court, the sanctity of his office and his personal integrity as a senior jurist.”
Augerea said the kind of treatment given to the head of the judiciary was “unheard of in the common law jurisdictions.”
Sir Salamo’s arrest has also raised the concerns of court officials in Australia.
President of the Bar Association of Queensland Roger Traves said: “What needs to be established is that the arrest was a result of an independent police investigation and not the result of a higher level executive government interference.
“The executive must respect the judiciary, decisions of the court and the rule of law.
“To do otherwise was to reject due performance of the court of its constitutional obligations.”
Police media officer Supt Dominic Kakas denied claims that police were pressured by politicians to arrest Sir Salamo and it was part of an “on-going investigation”.
Commenting yesterday on the chief justice’s arrest, Wapenamanda LLG
council president Nick Andake said his people were appalled at the treatment of one of Enga’s most accomplished sons who had done so much good for PNG.
“We will not stand by and watch an innocent man, one of our kin, be dragged through the mud.”

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