Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Judges query tribunal team

SOME Papua New Guinea National and Supreme Court judges are concerned about not being consulted in the appointment of the membership of the leadership tribunal hearing misconduct allegations against Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, The National reports.

A three-man tribunal, comprising pre-eminent overseas retired judges Roger Gyles as chairman, Sir Bruce Robertson and Sir Robin Auld, was scheduled to begin next Thursday.

While the appointment of a leadership tribunal was the sole prerogative of the chief justice, it was an established practice for the CJ to consult his fellow judges before naming the tribunal, The National had learned.

In this case, where tribunal members were drawn from outside PNG court jurisdiction, the local judges were all the more concerned.

The judges, who were approached by The National, had no idea about the tribunal and its membership or preparations.

“I have no idea about the appointment of the tribunal and what criterion was used in the appointment of the tribunal membership,” a judge said.

Consultation is a general and legal requirement in such situations, leading up to the appointment of the members of a leadership tribunal within the PNG judiciary, The National was told.

Another judge said that ideally, tribunal members must had previously served on the PNG bench and were now retired, which was not the case in the case of the current membership of the tribunal.

PNG Law Society president and the prime minister’s lead lawyer Kerenga Kua said the CJ’s appointment of pre-eminent retired overseas judges was in line and was within the bounds of law.

“The law allows for the appointment of sitting judges or retired judges from the PNG’s judicial bench. Or, in the current situation, from comparable jurisdiction – that is, from the common law jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand who, like PNG, follow the traditional English common law.

“We do not have any issue with that,” Kerenga said.

Issues are being raised in legal circles, regardless, about whether or not the decisions of the tribunal would be legally binding if its membership did not comprise members of the PNG justice system.

The National was told that the appointment of any tribunal membership, to judge on allegations against any leader, would be done collectively within the judiciary where names of possible candidates are circulated to the sitting PNG judges for their comments.

The names are then returned to the office of the chief justice who consults with the most senior of his colleagues before deciding on a final list.



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