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Despite charges, Injia was owed ‘respect’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 9, 2012) – The judiciary has deplored and condemned the manner in which the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia was arrested on Tuesday.

After a meeting of National and Supreme Court judges in the court precincts at Waigani, Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika released a media statement in which he described the actions of the police as "threatening, intimidatory and disrespectful not only of the chief justice but of the other judges and court staff" who witnessed the entire episode.

Salika said: "It is recognised that no judge is above the law. Notwithstanding this, the apprehension and treatment of Injia on the morning of March 6, 2012, by armed members of the police requires our comment.

"The chief justice was apprehended by armed members of the police after they ordered his vehicle and two accompanying security vehicles to stop along Sir John Guise Drive. After replacing the chief justice’s escort policeman in his vehicle with two armed members of the police, the police travelled with the chief justice to his chambers.

"Without any justification or permission, members of the police entered the Judges’ chambers complex while still armed. After waiting for Injia to conduct some business, the police then escorted him down to police headquarters for questioning, again while armed.

"The actions of the police exhibit a complete lack of respect for the office of the chief justice, the judiciary and its independence."

Salika said: "Regardless of whether the offence by which the chief justice had been charged has merit, and on this point it is to be clearly understood that the judges by making this statement are not to be taken as expressing any view, the above actions of the police on March 6 breached the established understanding that a person holding a high office be accorded the necessary courtesy and opportunity to present himself to an investigating authority for questioning.

"This courtesy and the opportunity were not given to Injia."

He added that the actions of the armed policemen were unprecedented in PNG and in other jurisdictions "where the rule of law is respected".

He urged Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga to immediately enhance relevant procedures to ensure such actions are not repeated.

Meanwhile, most lawyers were told to walk off halfway through their cases in the District, National and Supreme Court.

It was also understood that Injia, late in the afternoon, filed an application seeking interim orders to stop the current proceedings against him in court.

The judges meeting began around 9am and ended late in the afternoon.

Injia was seen in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand walking down the court pathway to the National Judicial Staff Services administration building.

He later joined senior staff of the National Judicial Staff Services inspecting the new construction site behind the courthouse for a few minutes before heading back to his chambers.

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