PNG’s Top Cop Sentenced To 7 Months For Contempt

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PNG’s Top Cop Sentenced To 7 Months For Contempt Commissioner Kulunga remains free on bail pending appeal

By Jacob Pok

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 16, 2014) – Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga was sentenced to seven months imprisonment last Friday by the National Court on each of the three contempt charges he was facing.

Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika handed down the decision in a court room packed with anxious lawyers, police officers, family members and relatives.

Lawyers for Mr Kulunga immediately filed a bail application in the afternoon after the conviction and successfully obtained a K10,000 bail late in the night at around 9pm at the Waigani National Court.

The bail was granted on the basis that there was a pending application against the conviction.

A relieved Mr Kulunga told journalists after his bail that he appreciated the court’s decision for granting him bail and would look forward to the application against his conviction.

The court decision was made following an unsuccessful Supreme Court bid by Mr Kulunga to stop the contempt proceedings.

Justice Salika in a 14-page judgment found that Mr Kulunga’s actions were directly in breach of the Court Orders and amounted to contempt. The orders Mr Kulunga breached were issued in 2012 by Justice Nicolas Kirriwom for Mr Kulunga to reinstate former deputy police commissioner for operations Geoffrey Vaki to the constabulary. Mr Kulunga had told the court during his allocatus that he did not deliberately disobey the court orders and that the court’s decision had assisted him to see where he had erred.

"I took into account what he says on his allocatus," Justice Salika said in his decision.

"He says he was not aware of the error affecting his decision. But that is why he has an in house legal team to seek their advice before making his decision.

"It is not a good excuse to come to this court and inform this court that he was not aware of the error.

"In other words, ignorance of the police disciplinary process and procedure is and should not be an excuse for the Commissioner of Police of Papua New Guinea."

Justice Salika said the commissioner responsible had no choice but to reinstate Mr Vaki pursuant to the court order.

"I however acknowledge his immense contribution to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and to the country as a whole.

"He has risen through the rank and file over the 40 years to become the Commissioner of Police, the highest post in the PNG Police Force."

However he said the judicial power that the courts wield and exercise is the judicial power of the people of Papua New Guinea as stipulated under section 158 (1) of the Constitution.

"This means that when the courts make decisions they are exercising the judicial powers of the people. The courts have the authority to make those decisions as empowered by the constitution.

"Therefore parties in court proceedings are bound by the decision of the court," Justice Salika said.

"I consider this non-compliance of the court orders in this case to be a serious dereliction of duty at the highest level, a serious insult and disrespect to the authority of the court orders, thereby brining the administration of justice into disrepute.

"It has the tendency to diminish respect and authority of the entire National Judicial System."

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