THE O’Neill-led government tried for the second time yesterday to suspend Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia – and failed, The National reports.
Like the November attempt to remove Sir Salamo, the court issued orders to stay the National Executive Council decision until further notice.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had announced the NEC decision, the government wanted the chief justice to step down and allow a tribunal to clear him of misconduct allegations.
Last November’s attempt was also stayed by the court and a gag order placed on cabinet from further actions until a contempt charge against Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah and Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat was heard and disposed of.
Yesterday’s stay order was signed by Sir Salamo, Justice Bernard Sakora and Justice Nicholas Kiriwom.
It read: "Pending formal charges of contempt being laid by the Registrar of the Supreme Court against Peter O’Neill and Chairman of National Executive Council and members of NEC, and lawyers Michael Wilson and Tiffany Twivey, any decisions made by the NEC regarding the suspension of Sir Salamo, as chief justice, are hereby stayed until further orders."
The Supreme Court had earlier yesterday issued a separate Order for all parties having proceedings in regard to the East Sepik Provincial Government Supreme Court Reference to turn up in court at 9.30 this morning.
The chief justice was unavailable for comment but he is said to be preparing to say a whole lot at the start of the legal year service on Monday.
It is expected all provincial judges will come into Port Moresby for this service because of the gravity of the situation at hand.
O’Neill said last night that his government decisions were not intended to stop any cases before the courts.
“There are serious misconduct allegations made against him (Chief Justice),” O’Neill said.
“We want him to step down and allow the tribunal to clear him. At the same time we want him to allow his deputy to hear the cases before the courts.
“Now we see him continually interfering in matters before the courts. This matter concerns him and he should not be signing the stay orders himself as he is doing. He is bringing the reputation of the courts into serious disrepute.”
Earlier, O’Neill with his cabinet ministers including Namah, Sir Mekere Morauta, Bart Philemon and William Duma in a media conference announced the suspension of Sir Salamo and the appointment of a panel inquiring into allegations of misconduct in office against him.
This will be the second time after acting Prime Minister Namah made the same announcement late last year and was arrested with Marat for contempt of court and the decision reversed by O’Neill.
O’Neill said the NEC in a decision made available K10 million for the Independent panel comprising retired judges, Justice Graham Elis, Paul Akuram and Sir Kubulan Los to immediately conduct the inquiry.
“These allegations are very serious. The government has been troubled by them for some time. I’ve mulled over it for over six months, and after wide consultation we decided on this action.
“The chief justice of Papua New Guinea must be given every opportunity to clear his name against these allegations. Sir Salamo and the high office he holds should not be constantly dogged by them.
“The allegations must be brought before a proper and competent forum and dealt with. Cabinet made this decision to suspended Sir Salamo after receiving advice from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General,” the prime minister said.