PNG Military Leaders Charged For Suspending Officer

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Agwi, Mai found in contempt of court order

By Jacob Pok

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 13, 2013) – Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) Commander Brigadier-General Francis Agwi and Defence Chief of Personnel Colonel Paul Mai were ordered by the Waigani National Court yesterday to pay K1,000 [US$472] bail each for failing to adhere to contempt charges against them.

The duo appeared before senior National Court judge Justice Bernard Sakora who formally arraigned them on their charges.

The contempt proceedings were instituted by plaintiff and former PNGDF Chief of Personal, Col. Joseph Mark Kewa who was suspended from the force by the duo.

Col. Kewa filed the contempt proceedings against them on the basis that the duo had breached an earlier court order that restrained them from suspending him.

According to court documents, Col. Kewa initially filed the substantive court proceeding, OS 267/05, after he was dismissed from the Force by then PNGDF Commander Peter Ilau in 2003, based on an alleged National Executive Council decision.

On May 25, 2006, the court granted an order in favor of Col. Kewa and restrained Commander Ilau from terminating him pending resolution of the substantive matter.

While the matter was pending in court, Brig-Gen. Agwi took over as Commander from Commander Ilau and again, suspended Col. Kewa.

Col. Kewa therefore went to court again and filed the contempt proceeding against Brig-Gen. Agwi and Col. Mai for defying the court order of May 25, 2006 restraining them from suspending him.

The matter was scheduled for hearing on Monday but was adjourned when Brig-Gen. Aqwi and Col. Mai failed to turn up in court. This compelled the court to summon Brig-Gen. Agwi and Col. Mai to turn up in court yesterday.

Justice Sakora expressed disappointment on the failure of the lawyers for failing to communicate with their clients by instructing them to appear in court cases.

"Court orders and directions that are sanctioned by judges and magistrates of the judicial system of PNG are important and must be complied with at all times. Persons that are subject to court proceedings must comply with court orders irrespective of their status or titles in society," Justice Sakora stressed.

He also told lawyers to adhere to their professional code of conduct when practicing law.

"What gets the court into frustration is when things are not properly presented before the court. Lawyers should not come in court unprepared and present things at the 11th hour.

"Lawyers who do not apply professionalism in their conduct and duties do not have any business in court. They can only be known as lawyers by the unsuspecting public out there but not in the court room," Justice Sakora said.

Justice Sakora later adjourned the matter to March 29 and extended the bail of the two contemnors.

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