PNG CHIEF JUSTICE TO SET UP LEADERSHIP TRIBUNAL

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Somare lawyers fail in last-ditch effort to head off proceeding

By Joshua Arlo PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 14, 2010) – Acting Public Prosecutor Jimmy Wala Tamate yesterday referred the Prime Minister to the Chief Justice to establish a Leadership Tribunal to look into allegations of misconduct in office against him.

The Chief Justice was served the request to call for the tribunal yesterday afternoon following an intense waiting at the courthouse in Waigani as the PM’s lawyers desperately tried in vain to get a judge to hear a motion yesterday that sought to stop this request from being served on the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.

None of the judges, and even the Chief Justice and his deputy, Gibbs Salika were available the entire day yesterday to hear the motion before time ran out for the PM by 4:06 p.m. when the undertaking taken by the acting Public Prosecutor last Friday not to serve the request in light of the motion pending an outcome, lapsed.

The notice of motion which was filed last week by the PM’s legal counsel, Kerenga Kua was briefly heard last Friday before Justice Salatiel Lenalia at the National Court in Waigani. According to Mr. Kua, Justice Lenalia had about 35 other motions to hear also and could not hear it fully. It was adjourned to yesterday where it was set for a hearing at 9:30 a.m. before Justice Ambeng Kandakasi. However, Justice Kandakasi was not available, prompting the matter further deferred to 1:30 p.m. for a hearing.

By 1.30pm Justice Kandakasi was still unavailable. When his associate came into the small courtroom that was over-crowded to announce that the judge would not hear the matter and that the motion had been referred back to the court registry, an insistent Kua tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the associate to instead have the motion sent to the Chief Justice and for counsel to see the Chief Justice.

The associate told Kua that both the Chief Justice and his deputy were engaged in other court matters at the time. When Kua persisted for a judge, the associate told him that the proper way to go was to consult the Chief Justice because the file was being referred back to the registry.

Kua sought to have audience with the Chief Justice, and Mr Augerea was later seen taking off with Kua, Mr Tamate and the Virgil Narokobi, counsel for the Ombudsman Commission, including the Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek into closed doors.

Some 30 minutes later when parties emerged, the situation was still the same: no judge was available to hear the motion. By 4pm yesterday the situation had not changed.

At 4.06pm Mr Tamate and a senior counsel from the prosecution office left for the chambers of the Chief Justice where the letter was served on Augera at 4.08pm. Tamate afterwards said: "I have now served the letter…this should put to rest this motion…I can’t wait and delay my powers…the normal process will now take its course."

He said this was despite another pitch by the PM’s lawyers to restrain him and get another judge to hear the matter.

Kua has said last night he and the PM’s legal team will be considering options on what to do.

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