Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prime minister defeats suspension

Legal eagles of the prime minister’s defence team Justine Wohuinangu (left), Ian Molloy and Kerenga Kua leaving the Waigani National and Supreme Court premises after they successfully convinced yesterday’s leadership tribunal that Sir Michael Somare should remain in office as prime minister for the duration of the inquiry. – Nationalpic by AURI EVA

SIR Michael Somare remains the prime minister of PNG for the duration of the leadership tribunal hearing alleged misconduct in office charges against him., The National reports.
This was the decision of the tribunal yesterday morning whose members conferred and agreed that the prime minister remains in office pending the final outcome of the tribunal, which seemed likely to conclude before the end of this week.
The two tribunal members who agreed on this decision were chairman Roger Gyles and Sir Bruce Robertson while Sir Robin Auld “reserved” his decision.
The decision was announced to a packed courtroom one at 11am yesterday following a 35-minute adjournment to reach that verdict on the issue of the PM’s suspension.
This became another first in the history of leadership tribunals in Papua New Guinea.
No other leader, covered under the leadership code, had come this far and remained in office while a leadership tribunal had proceeded with investigating allegations of misconduct in office against the incumbent.
All leaders have been suspended by automatic operation of the law upon the chief justice naming a tribunal but, in this specific instance because of some legal doubts raised over the standing of the prime minister, the chief justice, when naming the tribunal, had said the matter of suspension or not would be left to the tribunal to decide.
This – it did yesterday – creating a precedent and history.
Meanwhile, the prime minister, his accountant Glenn Blake who assisted him in filling out his annual returns forms and Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek took the witness stand later in the morning and in the afternoon and gave their accounts to support their arguments before the tribunal.
Manek was in support of the referral of the prime minister while Sir Michael stood in his own defence, supported by Blake.
Prosecuting lawyer Pondros Kaluwin had, at the start of the tribunal last Thursday, called on the tribunal to immediately suspend the prime minister pending the duration of the tribunal hearing, arguing that the tribunal had the discretion to do so under section 142(6) of the constitution.
The tribunal agreed with the parties to deal with the matter on
Monday, which was yesterday.
Yesterday, while the tribunal agreed with the discretion aspect of their role and commended Kaluwin for acknowledging this, adjourned at 10.22am for 35 minutes and returned at 11am to rule that “there will be no order of suspension” on the prime minister which, effectively, meant that Sir Michael will remain the prime minister throughout the tribunal.
He will perform all functions and powers of the prime minister.
The final outcome of the tribunal would, ultimately, determine the fate of Sir Michael.

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