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Lawyer argues unconstitutional bill should be annulled

By Jacob Pok

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 4, 2012) – Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has asked the Supreme Court to stop the government from implementing and enforcing the judicial conduct law.

His lawyer Kerenga Kua yesterday appeared before Justice Derek Hartshon in an ex parte hearing to seek the court’s orders.

[PIR editor’s note: As this story was being posted Radio New Zealand International reported that Somare’s efforts have failed. "Supporters of former Papua New Guinea prime minister Sir Michael Somare failed on Wednesday evening to get an injunction against the controversial Judicial Conduct Bill."]

The bill was rushed through parliament in a space of 24 hours and passed on March 21. It was certified into law by Speaker Jeffrey Nape and parliament clerk Don Pandan last Friday. There was public outrage with civil societies, university students and businesses advising the government to have it repealed.

Kua filed an urgent Supreme Court application seeking injunctive orders to restrain parliament from implementing and enforcing it.

He told the court that enfor­cing the law would affect the hearing of the two Supreme Court references currently on foot looking into the issue of the legitimacy of government.

He said if parliament enforced the new law against some of the judges hearing the references, it would disrupt the entire proceeding.

He therefore asked the court to issue a restraining order pending the actual hearing of the substantive matter which sought to nullify the entire judicial conduct law.

But Hartshon told Kua he would not hear the matter ex parte. He ordered that the application be served to all parties named in the proceedings and to return to court at 9:30am today.

The substantive issue in the originating summons filed by Kua will be based on rele­vant clauses in the Constitution which relate to constitutional office holders including judges.

He will argue that the new law should be nullified on the basis that section 221 of the Constitution opposed it.

Section 221 states that "a judge may not be suspended, dismissed or removed from office during his term of office except in accordance with a constitutional law" and not by an ordinary act of parliament.

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