Tuesday, April 03, 2012

PNG judge rejects bias allegations

By Eoin Blackwell,  

AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent

One of Papua New Guinea's top judges has refused to remove himself from constitutional hearings into the legitimacy of the government, amid allegations of bias.
Justice Nicholas Kerriwom on today told the court in Port Moresby he saw no reason to step down after a memo bearing his signature and calling on judges to band together against attacks from the government was leaked online.
"Since my appointment as a judge (15 years ago) my name has not been so politicised," he said.
"I find no good reason to recuse myself and I will not recuse myself from this reference unless my brother judges ... rule I must recuse."
Government lawyers argued that it didn't matter if the document was written by Justice Kerriwom, only that an apprehension of bias existed because the document bore his signature and had been seen by members of the public.
Earlier, Justice Kerriwom neither accepted nor denied authorship of the memo but said its leaking and use of his name had amounted to an invasion of privacy.
"For me I would rather walk away from this case now and have a good night's sleep and rest than subject me and my family to the undue stresses that we have have been subjected to since November 2011," he said, referring to government attempts to suspend the chief justice.
"I am neither denying or admitting authorship of that publication when it is not before the court."
Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah - who did join the motion for Justice Kerriwom to step down - had taken out a full-page ad in local newspapers last month calling on Justice Kerriwom and Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to step down.
Sir Salamo was arrested last month on charges of trying to pervert the course of a police investigation into his handling of court funds.
The court quickly issued a permanent stay on proceedings.
Government lawyers were expected to move to have Sir Salamo disqualified from overseeing the case but, after Justice Kerriwom's ruling, they instead asked for a two-hour adjournment for them to receive instructions from their clients.
Hearings into whether the O'Neill government's decisions since it controversially took office on August 2 were legal or not were supposed to begin on Monday, but council for Attorney General Dr Allan Marat yesterday applied to have justice Kerriwom removed.
The court will resume at 1.30 AEST

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