OVERSEAS JUDGES ARRIVE FOR PNG TRIBUNAL

Former judges from Australia, New Zealand, England

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 10, 2011) - The three ex-judges appointed to the leadership tribunal panel looking into charges of misconduct against Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare slipped into the country yesterday.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia was at the airport to welcome chairman Roger Gyles, a former judge of the federal court of Australia, Sir Bruce Robertson of the court of appeal and high court of New Zealand and Sir Arnold Auld, a former lord justice of the court of appeal of England and Wales. Sir Salamo announced their appointments early last month to hear charges of misconduct in office against Sir Michael.

The National, in an attempt to get pictures at the Jackson International Airport VIP lounge, was removed by the airport security who said that "permission must be given by the chief justice" for the media to gain access.

The three tribunal members arrived on an Air Niugini flight from Brisbane at 2 p.m. and were sworn in at Government House by Governor-General Michael Ogio. The tribunal will convene this morning at courtroom one at the Waigani National and Supreme Court premises. The tribunal is expected to have a fiery start with both the prosecution and the defence pulling out all stops.

An application has been lodged by the prime minister’s legal team seeking to stop the tribunal from convening but, as the tribunal has not met, the application remained undecided. Lawyers for the prime minister were attempting to stop the proceedings pending Sir Michael’s Supreme Court matter challenging the validity of his referral to a leadership tribunal.

The prosecuting team from the public prosecutor’s office will be the first to be called up before the tribunal to present a statement of reasons for the referral. It is expected that immediately after the reading of the charges, the prosecuting team will move for the tribunal to order the prime minister to step aside from office.

Acting Public Prosecutor Jim Wala Tamate said yesterday that such a move would be in line with the chief justice’s ruling when he announced the tribunal. Sir Salamo had stated last month that the question of the suspension of the prime minister would be determined by the tribunal.

Sir Michael was expected to attend the tribunal’s opening session at 9 a.m. today.

After prosecuting lawyer Kaluwin Pondros had presented the charges, it was expected that an application would be made to have Sir Michael step aside from office as the prime minister.

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