LAE COURT BANS LIQUOR RESTRICTION IN EASTERN HIGHLANDS

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LAE, Papua New Guinea (February 1, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Liquor dealers, consumers and women representatives in the province sought and successfully prevented a ban scheduled to take effect today.

In a landmark court decision, the Lae National Court granted lawyers for the plaintiffs, Acanufa Lawyers of Goroka, a court injunction restraining the provincial government from enforcing a liquor ban.

The court injunction named Mrs. Julie Soso Akeke, chairlady of Liquor Licensing, Governor Damson Lafana, and Provincial Chief Liquor Licensing Commissioner Edward Titie as defendants in the proceedings.

The injunction would enable the plaintiffs to file another motion in court to challenge the legality of the provincial government's decision to impose a liquor suspension, followed by a total ban.

However, the schedule of the National Court's calendar around the country has already set their dates for both criminal and civil cases and the current injunction appears to be extended to the end of the year no matter when the motion is filed.

The action taken by the liquor dealers, consumers and women from the province is the first of its kind.

Other provinces in the Highlands which have had liquor bans have never challenged their provincial governments.

The Eastern Highlands government is accused of depriving people's rights as well as causing huge losses to business houses as a direct result of the liquor ban decision.

The government was also accused of making a decision on October 14 last year by a handful of the Provincial Executive Council members and not the full sitting of the provincial assembly, which represents every district and council.

Mrs. Akeke was allegedly away in Fiji during the PEC meeting in Port Moresby and she was not a party to the decision now before the courts.

The community in Goroka and other respected leaders in the province, including some council presidents, described the court injunction as a victory for the people, saying the decision to ban liquor was an "unpopular one.''

The court's decision is a setback and political blow for Governor Lafana, who has been in office for less than five months.

Already the provincial assembly ranks are divided on the issue, considering the adverse impact the ban would have had on internal revenue.

Interim President of the Eastern Highlands Liquor Dealers Association, Himony Lapiso, said the court's decision means Eastern Highlanders cannot be taken for a ride.

He said the provincial government's decision had backfired because it did not seek views from the people.

Mr. Lapiso, who recently obtained a bank loan to run a liquor shop, said the court's decision was a relief to business houses.

Mr. Lapiso has been very critical of the ban since it was announced by the provincial government late last year.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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