No gain in shooting or silencing messenger
TO shoot or to silence the messenger is more and more becoming a copy-cat past-time for governments in the Pacific region. It is a development all supporters of democracy, media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights must strike out against vigorously. It’s a worrying trend especially in
1. Every person has the right to freedom of expression and publication, except to the extent that the exercise of that right is regulated or restricted by law -
(a) that imposes reasonable restrictions on public office-holders; or
(b) that imposes restrictions on non-citizens; or
(c) that complies with general qualifications on qualified rights
2. Freedom of expression and publication includes:
(a) freedom to hold opinions, to receive ideas and information and to communicate ideas and information, whether to the public generally or to a person or class of persons; and
(b) freedom of the press and other mass communications media.
This freedoms, liberties and rights are as good as how they can be freely exercised. When they are interfered with, obstructed or usurped through a public official’s insecurity or inferior complexes, the chances are that the values that we all take for granted in democratic systems of government come unstuck big time. Having created the premise upon which horns might lock in relation to the latest warning by a senior judge to me and my colleague let me present my case without fear or favour. Some events have overtaken the discussions in publications that have stirred some degree of judicial ire. That’s to be expected. People in high places must always know and appreciate that when they start wagging their tongues or utter a sound they have a willing audience who want to hear them but who are also critical or analytical of what may be said. Journalists – as news hounds – keep the public informed, educated and aware through their print and electronic media writings, commentaries and broadcasts. The role-play of investigative and provocative journalistic commentators, columnists and analysts is a little different from that of the normal news beat journalist or reporter. The commentary column is where the journalist writes analytically and investigatively and with a great deal of care and responsibility. That’s where one calls a spade and spade if evidence justifies the label. For instance, when there is smoke obviously a fire burns. Likewise when there is vomit there is bound to be smell. For both situations, a newshound worth his or her salt does not get the whiff of smell and go back to sleep. An inquisitive newshound – whether from Uritai village on the banks of the Lakekamu River in Gulf Province or from the mountain tops of Jimi in the Jiwaka area of Western Highlands will trace the smell to its origin and investigate it for its news value. That’s basically what the Laumaea and Kolma commentaries were about. The facts stack up. For instance, three judges sitting as a Supreme Court made a ruling that affected another judge presiding over the same case in the
He also said the entire proceedings were “hijacked” from him without proper legal processes being followed to remove the matter that was currently before him.
“In my considered opinion, no law or procedure, or combination of both, would support and justify the intervention and interference of the Supreme Court in the way that it did -- (On Monday November 3).
“And the way it did was to ride roughshod over the constitutional powers, duties and functions given to this court by section 155(3) (a).
“In the process, the Supreme Court interfered with my judicial independence, a valuable and cherished doctrine of democracy and constitutionalism.”
He said the Supreme Court decision was “both objectionable and obscene as contrary to the principles under which our independence Constitution was based.
“It is intolerable by any democratic standards.”
He said the law and proper process to disqualify him from hearing this case were not followed.
“Duly appointed authorities exercising people’s powers under the Constitution, be they legislative, executive or judiciary, who ought to know and appreciate the laws and procedures of this country – the principles that the Founders of the Constitution unequivocally adopted to help, guide and govern us – do not appear to have any respect for those principles.
“Some of us who are committed to doing things right by all manner of people, true and faithful to our judicial oath and declaration, not to mention the Lawyers Oath we all took on admission to practice law in this country, are now constantly frustrated.
“Those of us who are duty-bound to enforce the laws of the country, are being constantly frustrated in this very serious task, by those who wish to evade and avoid the requirements of the laws and procedures of the country, by those who wish to cut corners, as it were.”
He added: “There is an assault on the democratic principles adopted on
“The unusual become the usual (way of doing things), the unacceptable become acceptable, and the irregular becomes regular.”
The judge said the people’s judicial power was not a “popularity contest” as in the case with the Miss PNG contest. On Wednesday November 5, Justice Mark Sevua -- in support of Justice Sakora -- made a statement denouncing the actions of the Supreme Court.
“I support the comments made by Justice Sakora and endorse his concerns,” Justice Sevua said. The newspaper continued to quote Justice Sevua as having said that such an action of the Supreme Court was indeed “insulting” to a judge whom he described as one of PNG’s leading and most experienced judges on the bench. According to the newspaper Justice Sevua also said it was not the first time such a decision was made in recent times when interlocutory matters were before National Court judges and while they were still pending before those judges (as individual National Court judge hearings), the matters were taken to a higher court and then “hijacked” and given to be heard by another judge.
“This is a very dangerous trend and must be stopped by all means,” Judge Sevua is quoted as having said. He is further quoted as having said the rich and well-to-do could run to the Supreme Court and have matters before judges “hijacked”, but the “little people” could not because they could not pay and that the public should know that such “hijacking” of cases amounted to interference in a judge’s judicial duties.
“It is a blatant interference of a National Court Justice executing his judicial functions,” Justice Sevua is quoted as having said. Wisdom, freedom, restraint and responsibility come with a great deal of self-sacrifice and maturity is how this scribe would sum up this storm in a tea-cup. Here are a couple of quotes as food for thought: "More and more, if you're not in the digital conversation about your community, you're not in a conversation that matters" -- Alberto Ibargüen, President of The Knight Foundation. And former
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