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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 21) – The Papua New Guinea National Court has declared Health Minister Melchior Pep insolvent.

The declaration of insolvency against the Minister and Member of Parliament for Dei by the court yesterday stems from his failure to pay K48,472, plus interest and legal costs, to his predecessor and former Dei Member of Parliament Puri Ruing.

Constitutional Amendment No.24 on Electoral Reforms Section 103(3)(d) stipulates that the declaration of a parliamentarian as insolvent in a court of law gives grounds for his or her disqualification from office.

Mr Ruing’s lawyer and principal of Kwimberi Lawyers Andrew Kwimberi said yesterday the Ombudsman Commission had been informed of the insolvency proceedings his client had initiated against the Health Minister.

The Court of Disputed Returns awarded costs against Mr Pep after he unsuccessfully challenged Mr Ruing’s then election as the Dei MP in the 1997 general elections.

The cost was taxed on January 4, 1999, with the National Court taxing office awarding a sum of K51,722.52 to Mr Ruing.

That amount was reduced to K48,472.42 in 2001 when Mr Pep made a part payment but failed to pay off the balance despite numerous letters Mr Ruing’s lawyers wrote concerning the non-payment to Mr Pep’s then legal representatives Mawa Lawyers.

Kwimberi Lawyers in May last year notified Mawa Lawyers of their intention to apply for summary judgment and subsequently filed a notice of motion a year later.

The lack of response from Mr Pep or his lawyers resulted in Mr Ruing obtaining a summary judgment on June 11, from the National Court for K48,472.52 plus interest set at 8 per cent.

A copy of the June 11 court order was served on Mawa Lawyers and Mr Pep in July.

It resulted in Mr Pep, through his lawyer Francis Minei asking for more time to settle his debt.

Mr Ruing agreed to give his successor a week from July 30 but the Minister later asked for an extra week — drawing the ire of the former MP who instructed his lawyers to file insolvency proceedings.

The National Court chaired by Justice Ambeng Kandakasi yesterday agreed with Mr Kwimberi’s submission that Mr Pep failed to pay back the money within the required 14 days from the June 11 court order coupled with an extended deadline to August 6 — and subsequently declared the Minister insolvent.

Yesterday’s court order declaring Mr Pep’s insolvent would now be advertised publicly, specifying the dates when a meeting would be held with the National Court Registrar where the Minister’s debts and liabilities would be assessed.

October 21, 2004

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