JUDGES of the Supreme and National Courts have rallied behind Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia amid persistent moves by the O’Neill-led government to suspend him in relation to allegations of misconduct in office, The National reports.
It comes as the national government ignored a stay order, made acting appointments to top judiciary positions and set up a tribunal to hear the misconduct allegations.
The judges, in Port Moresby for the start of the legal year, issued a statement yesterday saying the two Supreme Court stay orders – one since last November and the second last Thursday – stopping the NEC-endorsed suspension must be complied with.
They said the stay orders must be enforced without question unless and until a court of competent jurisdiction sets them aside.
They said Sir Salamo must be accorded all the privileges and courtesies of the office of the chief justice, including free and unhindered access to his chambers.
Last Friday, armed policemen barred Sir Salamo from entering his chambers at the Waigani court house, forcing him to return home.
The statement, dated Feb 5, was signed by Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika and issued after the judges met and resolved to protect the Constitution, the integrity of the judiciary and the reputation of the courts.
They said that the stay orders granted by the court were not about individual interest but a decision to protect the interest of the judiciary.
The NEC last Thursday made a second attempt to sideline the chief justice but, like the November attempt, the order was stayed by the Supreme Court until further notice.
Sir Salamo will today officiate at the ceremony and church service to open the legal year which will bring together judges, magistrates and lawyers throughout the country.
Acting Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Moses Maladina said that the court order signed last Thursday by Sir Salamo to stay his own suspension was a gross abuse of power.
The proper thing to do was to involve other judges in signing and issuing the order, he said.
Maladina said the allegations of misconduct in office would be heard by a tribunal while the judicial and legal services commission had met and appointed Salika as acting chief justice and Justice Bernard Sakora as acting deputy chief justice.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said Sir Salamo’s suspension and the appointment of a tribunal to look into allegation against him were constitutional.
He said the government was dealing with the head of judiciary and he (O’Neill) was bound to follow the provisions of the Constitution and not to be seen to be placed in a position of conflict against the judiciary or its head.