Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I did not lobby for chief justice's post

By Justice Mark S. Sevua


TWO prominent and senior writers of the print media recently have insinuated, implied and accused me and my colleague Justice Bernard Sakora of lobbying for the post of chief justice.
On page 14 of the Sunday Chronicle, Susuve Laumaea in his commentary, “Judicial ‘bad vibes’ not good for PNG” (Nov 9), accused us of open lobbying for appointment as chief justice.
He said: “Judicial squabbles among brother judges … and purported lobbying for appointment as chief justice …”
This is not the first time that Mr Laumaea has written on judiciary issues.
He has suddenly become an expert on judiciary matters and I question his qualification.
I do not stop him from writing what he likes, but I do not accept as professional journalism, the fact that he fails to obtain or seek views from people he is attacking in his articles.
This is not only very poor journalism but unprofessional journalism and the lowest form of public writing that a man of his standing can write.
It is simply “gutter journalism”.
I ask Mr Laumaea to prove his allegation of my lobbying for the post of chief justice and if he has no evidence to substantiate his wild allegation, then I suggest that he shuts his loud mouth.
In The National, Frank Kolma, in his focus article on page 32 entitled “Allegation by Sakora serious” (Thursday, Nov 13), accused Justice Sakora and I of making statements which could influence the appointment of the chief justice.
He said: “On yet another level, since the position of the chief justice is open presently, reasonable people can infer that this kind of public comments have some bearing on that aspect too.”
Since he has used the test of reasonable man, I say that reasonable people will also infer that he is accusing us of lobbying for the position of chief justice and this is far from the truth.
Where is your evidence, Mr Kolma?
I have not lobbied for the position of chief justice and I categorically deny outright any imputation that I have lobbied or campaigned for the position of chief justice.
I have not been seen in Parliament to gather support for appointment as chief justice.
I have not used prominent lawyers and prominent Manus people to lobby for my appointment as chief justice.
I know for a fact that the other two senior judges, Justices (Gibbs) Salika and Sakora, who had been named in the newspapers, have not done so either.
I deny all these allegations and any inference to be drawn that I have been lobbying for the post of chief justice.
Those of us who were named as possible candidates for the chief justice position by the Post-Courier recently were never told and our views were not sought by the journalist who printed those stories and put our names in the newspaper.
All the speculations that were going on in the print media were perpetrated by journalists including Mr Laumaea and Mr Kolma, not me or Justices Salika and Sakora.
We have never authorised any journalist to use our names in their stories.
One begins to wonder whether these scribes were taught the art of balanced reporting.
I am not going to sit down and read anymore garbage from these so-called media reporters.
If Mr Laumaea and Mr Kolma have evidence that Justice Sakora and I have been lobbying and campaigning for appointment as chief justice, I demand that they make that public now otherwise they should shut up and stop making unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations because what they, and their newspapers, have done have bordered on defamation.
It is a very serious allegation to make against a judge who is innocent of any of the accusations that these two journalists have made against us.
The issues that were raised by Justice Sakora and supported by me were constitutional issues intended for the benefit of the public.
The public who reposes their trust in the judiciary have the right to know about these constitutional issues and to be alerted to what is becoming a dangerous trend in this institution.
After all, it has always been held, like Mr Kolma said in his article, “the high pedestal we have put in on by our public trust”.
That is the context in which these statements were uttered.
I reiterate and emphasise that the statements were not for the purpose of canvassing the support of the Prime Minister or Cabinet ministers to appoint one of us as chief justice.
In relation to the many speculations mainly instigated by the print media, we have remained silent because we respect the constitutional process of appointing a chief justice.
Those Mr Know-it-all should provide the evidence of judges seen walking the corridors of Parliament and lobbying for support and, if they do not have that, they should shut up and stop implicating us.
Whilst everyone has the constitutional right of expression, that right does not confer upon the rumour mongers and busybodies the right to smear our names with mud by making stupid, spurious and unsubstantiated allegations.
I can’t speak for Justice Sakora, but as far as I am concerned, I did not come here to be the chief justice and I have never aspired to be chief justice.
I was appointed on merit 16 years ago. I did not apply for this job.
I had intended to leave after serving my first 10-year term; however, due to the urging of my people, including lawyers and the small people on the street, I decided to seek another term and was granted that in August 2003.
Judges have made statements in the media in the past because the traditional protectors of the judiciary have abandoned the judiciary.
As is evident, the Attorney-General, the secretary for Justice, the president of the local bar have never been keen on fighting for judges or the judiciary and if judges, by their own judgment, feel they should express themselves publicly, so be it!
I repeat that the recent statements that have been the subject of these cheap write-ups were intended for the benefit of the public.
The public has the right to know and judges have an obligation to raise serious constitutional issues that affect people’s rights.
In any event, now that the National Executive Council has appointed a new chief justice, there should no longer be any discussion in the media on that issue and Mr Laumaea and Mr Kolma would do well to take heed that they are treading on dangerous grounds if they persist to make unsubstantiated allegations against Justice Sakora and myself.
Whilst on the issue of public statements, let me say that serious allegations of corruption have been levelled against the judiciary in the recent past and this should be of interest to Mr Laumaea and Mr Kolma instead of wasting their time on unsubstantiated allegations.

Justice Mark S. Sevua
Port Moresby

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