Thursday, April 05, 2012

Somare men try to stop judges' suspension

By Eoin Blackwell,
AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent

The supporters of former Papua New Guinea prime minister Sir Michael Somare are expected to apply for an injunction against controversial laws that allow parliament to suspend judges.
Yesterday, the PNG parliament voted to effectively suspend two of the nation's top judges, after Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia refused to disqualify himself from overseeing hearings into the government's legitimacy.
Sir Michael's supporters were expected to apply on last night for an injunction against the laws allowing the suspension.
Lawyers for Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat had moved to have Sir Salamo recuse himself from the hearings on Tuesday, saying he would indirectly benefit from ruling against the government.
Yesterday, just over an hour after Sir Salamo rejected arguments for his stepping aside, parliament moved to suspend him and Justice Nicholas Kerriwom.
In introducing the motion to suspend the pair, leader of government business Moses Maladina said PNG was facing a national crisis.
"Our nation is experiencing a serious crisis severely rocking the foundations of the three arms of government, the corner stones that hold this nation together," he said.
"We have experienced in recent times, because of court orders, a divided police force, our military was divided, our head of state was deceived.
"The chief justice is sitting on his own case, determining his own fate and refusing to disqualify himself."
The vote was carried on voices before parliament was adjourned until today.
Dame Carol Kidu, who leads the two members who make up PNG's opposition, was heard shouting, "We will regret this", when the vote was passed.
 Since November last year the government has repeatedly tried to suspend Sir Salamo, only to have the court overturn the order.
Police arrested him last month on allegations of trying to pervert the course of their investigation into his handling of court finances.
The court quickly issued a stay on proceedings after his arrest, calling the police action an abuse of process.
The government also wants Justice Kerriwom gone after a memo bearing his signature and calling on the judiciary to band together and defend themselves against government attacks was leaked online.
The parliamentary vote means Sir Salamo and Justice Kerriwom will be referred to Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio, who will in turn refer the pair to a tribunal of former judges for investigation.
While before the tribunal, they will not be allowed to oversee any court hearings.
Parliament passed laws to allow the suspension - called the Judicial Conduct Bill 2012 - two weeks ago, a move that sparked a protest in the capital, Port Moresby.
Following the public outcry, Mr O'Neill last week indicated the law would not be implemented to allow for wider consultation.
In what may be a hitch for the government, members of the former administration of Sir Michael were outside court brandishing two different versions of the law.
One version certified by Speaker Jeffery Nape on March 30 and another certified by him on April 3.
Arthur Somare, a former minister in his father's government, said the latest version of the law speeds up the process by which the justices can be referred to the governor-general.
The March 30 version of the law was the one voted on by parliament, not the one certified by Mr Nape on Tuesday.
"It amounts to fraud," he told AAP, adding his father's supporters will publish both versions in the nation's national newspapers today.
"You cannot replace a law that was voted on with another version (that wasn't voted on)."
Supporters of the former PM Sir Michael Somare failed to get an injunction against the Judicial Conduct Bill being implemented last night.

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