Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sir Michael first prime minister in Papua New Guinea to face tribunal

THE appointment of a leadership tribunal to investigate a reigning prime minister, although provided for in law, has no precedent in Papua New Guinea, The National reports.

The referral process, which culminated yesterday in the appointment by Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia of a tribunal comprising three retired pre-eminent judges from Australia, New Zealand and England, has itself been muddled, confusing and torturous for the majority of people.

It all began in 2006 when the chief ombudsman at the time, Ila Geno, informed Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare of his decision to refer him to the then public prosecutor Chronox Manek.

The OC’s grounds for referring the prime minister was alleged misconduct in office as a leader in that he had allegedly failed to lodge with the Ombudsman Commission his annual leadership returns for a number of years, between 1994 and 1997.

Submission of annual returns is a mandatory requirement under the leadership code to establish each member’s earnings.

The OC brought three counts of failure to lodge his annual leadership returns on time against the PM.

This initial OC’s moves were vigorously contested by the PM who began court proceedings, seeking to stop the referral on the grounds that the way in which the OC’s decision was reached to refer him was a contestable matter before the courts.

The matter sea-sawed between different judges.

Firstly, it came before Justice Derek Hartshorn in June 2008 when it was ruled in favour the OC, enabling the OC to exercise its constitutional and legal rights to prosecute the PM.

The OC referred the prime minister to the public prosecutor for immediate prosecution on June 26, 2008, and made public its intention the next day.

Then the PM, through his counsel Kerenga Kua, appealed to stay that decision and began another round of court battle; and that matter is still before the courts.

In the interim, the court got the public prosecutor’s undertaking, that when it chose to refer the substantive matter to the chief justice to appoint a tribunal, to give a three-day notice to the PM.

That undertaking, in a form of a letter dated Dec 8, 2010, was served on the PM in early December by acting Public Prosecutor Jim Wala Tamate.

Kua sought lto stop the public prosecutors from requesting the chief justice to set up a leadership tribunal.

However, the hearing did not eventuate and by 4.06pm that day, Tamate served the referral letter to the CJ seeking the appointment of a leadership tribunal to look into the allegations.

Sir Salamo announced the formation of a leadership tribunal yesterday

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