Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PNG government tells judges: Quit or be arrested

From: AAP

THE effective government of Papua New Guinea says it will arrest the three judges who ordered ousted prime minister Sir Michael Somare returned to power, unless they resign.
Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah said at midday today that Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and justices Les Gavera-Nanu and Nicholas Kirriwom had less than 16 hours to tender their resignations.
Mr Namah's comments came as Sir Michael left Port Moresby for his former electorate of East Sepik, where he is officially expected to nominate for the June 23 national election.
"Enough is enough," Mr Namah said.
"As of yesterday, I gave (the judges) 24 hours to resign on the basis that they have compromised the judiciary at the very highest level.
"They will be arrested for sedition."
Three members of a five-man Supreme Court bench on Monday reaffirmed their December 12 decision that Sir Michael was the nation's constitutional prime minister.
The 76-year-old political veteran saw his latest nine-year term in the top job terminated on August 2 last year when 70 out of 109 MPs voted to form government behind Peter O'Neill.
Mr O'Neill said Monday's decision should not have been handed down after two members of the five-man bench - Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika and Justice Bernard Sakora - abstained on ethical grounds.
"The reference that was sought in the Supreme Court was for advice to parliament, not a court order that has been given by Injia and others," he said.
"All in all, we firmly believe the Supreme Court has erred again.
"The two most senior judges who have spent many, many years on the bench, many years of experience ... they have indicated that of course there are issues, that the judiciary has been compromised."
Parliament had been expected to hold a special sitting on Wednesday to legislate around the court's decision.
However, only 33 of the 109 MPs turned up, fewer than the 55 needed to pass laws.
Mr O'Neill said he expected there would be enough MPs in Port Moresby to call a parliamentary session tomorrow.
 With election campaigning in full swing, many MPs have left the capital for their electorates.
Sir Michael, who yesterday was refused an audience with Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio, said the O'Neill government did not have the right to bring back parliament a week after it was dissolved ahead of the election.
"They have defied all the rules and they have breached the constitution," he told reporters.
"The parliament is prorogued. You cannot call a parliament any more."
AAP understands there is no constitutional block to the government calling a special sitting after parliament has been dissolved for the election.
Sir Michael also appealed to the Australian people to acknowledge the legitimacy of his government.
"We want the Australian public to know we believe they have been supporting the O'Neill regime," he said.
Sir Michael's choice of attorney-general, Sir Arnold Amet, used stronger language, telling the assembled press PNG had fallen under the rule of a dictatorial government.
"As of yesterday, they are now in dictatorial control of this nation. They have no legitimacy, no leg to stand on.
"There can be no two ways this can be read. We have the legitimate prime minister here."
Sir Arnold also made a public appeal for the police and armed forces to back Sir Michael.
The police and public service say they are sticking with the O'Neill government until after the election.
Police have refused to let anyone see the governor-general until an MP with the required numerical support asks to form a government after July 27.

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