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PNG JUDGES’ SUSPENSIONS TO BE DECIDED TODAY Judicial conduct bill implementation also under scrutiny

By Todagia Kelola

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, April 11, 2012) – The suspension and referral of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and Justice Nicholas Kirriwom as per the operation of the new controversial law "the Judicial Conduct Act of 2012" depends on a decision which will be handed down at 11am today by a three-man bench of the Supreme Court.

An interim injunctive application sought by the Morobe Provincial Government to stay the decision of Parliament to suspend and refer them is being considered and will be handed down today.

The Provincial Executive of Morobe had earlier filed a Supreme Court reference challenging the validity of the new law.

Yesterday lawyers for the Morobe Provincial Government moved an interim injunctive application seeking certain stay orders pending the hearing of their Constitutional reference.

Their lawyer Rimbink Pato submitted that his clients are concerned that whilst their Constitutional reference is yet to be heard decisions and steps under the Judicial Conduct Act are now in force.

He argued that evidence clearly shows that Parliament has referred the Chief Justice and Justice Kirriwom to the Head of State for appointment of a Tribunal to investigate them under the new law.

"It is absurd that no terms of reference as to what the tribunal is to investigate into have been provided, such being a basic requirement of procedural fairness."

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Dame Carol Kidu, head of PNG’s opposition in parliament, calls the judicial conduct act a "fraud at the highest legislative level" based on the fact that two different versions have reportedly been certified. A March 30 version and April 3 version of the bill were both certified, and Dame Kidu has called consistently for the government to repeal one of these acts.]

He submitted that the stay order would best preserve the status quo and the balance of convenience favors the grant of it. Failing the grant of these orders, irreparable damage would be done to the system of justice administration, particularly the Supreme Court could be crippled substantially, for instance the two judges have sat and heard two very important Constitutional references SCR1 and SCR2 of 2012 which were completed last Thursday and the court reserved judgment. They also have other cases in which simple Papua New Guineans have come to seek justice.

Lawyers for the interveners Attorney General, Prime Minister, Speaker and members of Parliament led by Loani Henao submitted that the application is for stay and not the constitutional validity of it and that the three men bench with respect should remove their minds of the brotherhood relationship they have with the two judges.

Tiffany Twivey for the Speaker submitted that parliament’s decision cannot be stayed because it is non justiciable and that the Judicial Conduct Act of 2012 is a law, and its yet to be considered unconstitutional by the courts.

The three-man bench of Justices Panuel Mogish, George Manuhu and Don Sawong heard the application from 2pm until 7pm.

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