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‘Public bias’ should disqualify Justice Kirriwom

By Junior Ukaha

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 3, 2012) – Justice Nicholas Kirriwom, one of the judges on the five-man bench hearing the special Supreme Court references on the legitimacy of the government, has been advised to disqualify himself from the hearings.

Lawyer Tiffany Twivey, representing Attorney-General Dr. Allan Marat, argued in court yesterday that Kirriwom should be disqualified from the bench because of an apprehension of bias against him.

The application to disqualify Kirriwom was made last Thursday.

Twivey based her evidence on a "leaked" memo from Kirriwom’s chamber in which he urged fellow judges to unite and defend the judiciary against "attacks" from the government and its agents.

The document was uploaded on the pngexposed website and viewed by members of the public.

Twivey argued that the content of the memo was reasonable evidence that could bring about perceived public perception of bias against Kirriwom, questioning his involvement in the references.

Tiffany said the judge needed to explain his position and disqualify himself from the hearing.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, who was head of the bench, asked Twivey if the document she relied on were admissible in court as evidence.

Sir Salamo said just because a document was pasted on the internet or published in the media did not mean that it was admissible in court.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Kirriwom has refused to step down from the reference over the current government’s legitimacy.]

He said as the head of the judiciary, he had the authority to authorize any material to be released from the court house for public consumption.

Sir Salamo said it was not the case with that memo.

He asserted that the memo was, therefore, illegal and obtained illegally.

Kirriwom who also sat on the bench said nothing for most of the afternoon session.

He was seen nodding his head to points raised by the lawyers involved in the matter.

Lawyer Ian Molloy, representing the East Sepik provincial government, said a high percentage of what was found on the internet was never true.

Molloy said the document relied on by Twivey was, therefore, not an official document and was questionable.

The bench adjourned the matter to today for a ruling.

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