Sunday, December 05, 2010

Prime Minister must step aside: Namah

Leader of PNG Party Belden Namah has called on Prime Minister (PM) Sir Michael Somare to voluntarily step aside from official duties following last Tuesday’s (30th November2010) Supreme Court dismissal of an appeal by Sir Michael to prevent the Ombudsman Commission (OC) from investigating him.

Namah said Sir Michael should stop employing deliberate delay tactics to frustrate the constitutionally mandated tasks of the OC to delay his referral process by endlessly seeking relief in courts.

He said: “Sir Michael’s indifference with the law and OC leaves a lot to be desired of the founding father, who was an architect of the very constitution he helped drafted and adopted at independence.

“He should simply swallow his pride, stop being arrogant and humble himself.

“ In the public interest, he must voluntarily relinquish his position by stepping aside as prime minister to allow for his referral process to proceed without further unnecessary delays.

“If the PM has nothing to hide, he should allow his referral process to proceed unimpeded.

“ He should defend himself in the tribunal hearing like other leaders who have been referred in the past.

“He is no different to other elected leaders who have been referred for misconduct in office.

“Is the PM telling the nation that he is above the law?

“Is he telling us that he should not be prosecuted if he breaks and laws?

“Why can’t he respect the very laws he helped crafted?

“Why shouldn’t he be prosecuted and dealt with appropriately like others leaders who have been charged under the Leadership Code?” Namah asked.

The OC alleges that Sir Michael failed to lodge annual returns for the periods 1994/5, 1995/96 and 1996/7, his lodgement returns for the periods 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 20003/04 and incomplete statements for periods 1992/93, 1993/94,1997/98, 1999/2000, 2000.01, 20001/02 and 20002/03.

The OC referred Sir Michael to the Public Prosecutor to ask the Chief Justice to appoint a Leadership Tribunal to deal with the allegations, but Sir Michael went to court seeking orders to stop the OC from investigating him.

On June 24 2008, National Court Judge, Justice Derek Hartshorn rejected an application by Sir Michael for a temporary injunction to stop the OC from investigating him.

When rejecting Sir Michael’s temporary injunction, Judge Hartshorn ruled that it was not in the interest of the justice of the general public that lawful authorities should be prevented from performing their legal and constitutional duties.

Sir Michael had gone to court asking the court to grant him certain declarations and a permanent injunction preventing the OC from continuing its investigations.

However, Judge Hartshorn stated that Sir Michael did not have a strong case to stop the OC from continuing its investigations.

Section 4 of the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of the Leadership require every person who is subject to the Leadership Code to furnish the OC every year details of assets, income and other required information.

On Nov 19, 2010, Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek told a media conference in Port Moresby that Sir Michael was referred to office of the public prosecutor after his court challenge failed to stop the referral.

Manek highlighted that he was not aware of any court order preventing the public prosecutor from appointing a tribunal.

Namah said since the Supreme Court had upheld that National Court decision, the Public Prosecutor was duty bound to move swiftly to perform his constitutionally mandated duty to ask the Chief Justice to appoint a tribunal to deal with Sir Michael.

“This is a case of national importance involving the chief executive of this nation.

“It therefore demands for the Public Prosecutor to act in a timely manner in the public interest,” he stressed.

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