Thursday, March 10, 2011

Prime minister all set for battle

Day one:Charges againstSir Michael to be presented


PRIME Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare will appear before a leadership tribunal today, charged with misconduct in office, The National reports.

The three overseas judges, appointed to sit in the tribunal, arrived yesterday from Australia and were sworn in by the Governor-General, Michael Ogio.

A master tactician and survivor of PNG's rough and tumble political field for 43 years, Sir Michael has decided not to go down without a fight.

His lawyers filed an urgent application on Tuesday to stop the tribunal from convening until the Supreme Court had decided on a matter before it which challenges the validity of his (PM's) referral for prosecution before a leadership tribunal.

All eyes will be focused on a small band of lawyers from the office of the public prosecutor who will set the ball rolling today, unless the tribunal decided otherwise, by reading the charges for which Sir Michael has been referred.

It is expected that immediately after the statement of reasons are given, the prosecuting team will move for the tribunal to suspend the prime minister from office.

As the prime minister prepares to face the tribunal, PNG grew eerily quiet yesterday.

His ruling National Alliance party met for a full week to discuss, among other things, candidates who were to succeed him as parliamentary leader and a cabinet line-up after him to lead government into next year's elections.

When the party machinery met with stony silence from the prime minister, it stopped meeting and it, too, fell silent.

Coalition partners and ministers, likewise, fell silent, stricken by the gravity of what is to transpire today.

Even the opposition, which has pushed for Sir Michael to resign all along, seemed stumped by the occasion. No vitriolic statement came.

It seemed as if the nation is holding its breath.

Sir Michael, 75, is the first prime minister to face a leadership tribunal out of five former colleagues.

The prime minister has been charged with failing to file his annual returns to the Ombudsman Commission between 1994 and 1997.

A court official said entry to the tribunal room (courtroom one) would be strictly controlled and unauthorised persons would not be allowed to enter.

The partitioned courtroom can sit only 150 or so people.


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