Tuesday, May 22, 2012

PNG court undercuts prime minister's power

From AAP

PAPUA New Guinea's Supreme Court has again ordered the return of Sir Michael Somare to the prime ministership.
The country's parliament has been recalled for a special sitting today in response to the controversial ruling yesterday, which came as candidates began campaigning in earnest for the June national elections.
Two of the five judges abstained from making a ruling, with Justice Bernard Sakora saying that to participate would contradict his oath as a judge.
Three judges - chief justice Sir Salamo Injia, Les Gavara-Nanu and Nicholas Kerriwom - ruled yesterday that Sir Michael remained an MP despite being dumped last year and that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's ascension to the top job remained unconstitutional.
Sir Salamo said the decision was legally binding and should be obeyed by public servants, government agencies and the Speaker of parliament.
Mr O'Neill, who yesterday was in his Southern Highlands electorate of Ialibu-Pangia for his nomination as a candidate in the upcoming poll, said the decision by the three judges smacked of "judicial corruption" and was an attempt to disrupt the election.
A spokesman for Mr O'Neill said parliament had been recalled for 10am today, a week after it was dissolved for the June 23 poll.
Mr O'Neill also called on Mr Somare's parliamentary supporters - many of whom have boycotted parliament since the August 2 vote to dump the Somare government - to attend the session.
Mr O'Neill is reported to have said the election would go ahead as scheduled and that parliament is convening to officially disregard the Supreme Court ruling.
The government has been trying to remove chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia since November.
Police arrested him earlier this year, alleging he had misappropriated funds belonging to the family of a dead judge.
The court dismissed the case, calling the police investigation an abuse of process.
In court yesterday deputy chief Justice Gibbs Salika abstained from reading his decision, saying his "conscience dictated" he could not be part of it. Justice Bernard Sakora used tougher language, saying to participate would be to "disregard (my) judicial oath, legal ethics and the laws of the constitution".
AAP understands government lawyers applied to delay yesterday's decision after The Sunday Chronicle newspaper printed emails allegedly sent between Sir Salamo and Justice Nicholas Kerriwom in February, in which Justice Kerriwom called the government illegal.
In March parliament voted to give itself the power to effectively suspend judges, a move that has been condemned internationally.
When the same bench ruled 3 to 2 on December 12 to reinstate Mr Somare, it briefly left the nation with two prime ministers, two cabinets and two governors-general.
After the majority of parliament refused to accept the court's decision, Sir Michael's cabinet instigated a military mutiny, which ultimately failed.
Comment is being sought from the Somare camp.

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