PNG Court To Police: Don’t Arrest PM Until Court Weighs In

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Upheaval and confusion reign as O’Neill fights charges

By Charles Moi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 18, 2014) – The National Court has ordered police to refrain from arresting Prime Minster Peter O’Neill and Finance Minister James Marape pending the outcome of a further hearing today.

The interim orders were issued yesterday by Justice Ere Kariko to allow lawyers to complete their submissions today on whether a warrant of arrest for O’Neill should be set aside.

[PIR editor’s note: This is a rapidly evolving story. Developments in the last day or so include: the sacking of PNG’s attorney general Kerenga Kua and the appointment of a replacement; the resignation of Police Commission Toami Kulunga after his sentencing for contempt of court and the appointment of an acting Police Commissioner; the announcement by PM O’Neill of a formation of a commission to investigate the charges brought against him; confusion in the courtroom "as two lawyers appeared to represent the police - the inhouse lawyer and a new counsel appointed by the new Police Commissioner, Geoffrey Vaki and the new Attorney General, Ano Pala. … The judge has directed the lawyers to sort just who is representing police and adjourned the case until later this morning."; and most recently a report that "Taskforce Sweep (the entity created by PM O’Neill to investigate corruption in the country and the agency bringing charges against the Prime Minister) has been disbanded with chairman Sam Koim stood down."]

Kariko’s orders also restrained police from taking any action on officers investigating the payment to the law firm. A decision on O’Neill’s arrest warrant is pending before Kariko.

O’Neill’s lawyer Tiffany Twivey applied for a stay on the warrant of arrest pending the finality of the court proceedings.

The court proceedings was initiated by Finance Minister James Marape this year to determine the legality of the State’s payment of K71.8 million to Paraka Lawyers.

Twivey said O’Neill received a letter from police on Monday requesting him to attend an interview to answer questions on the payment of legal fees to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

Attached to the letter was a warrant of arrest issued by the district court on June 12.

Twivey said O’Neill’s arrest could cause a leadership chaos in the country.

Kariko told Twivey that she was asking the court to stop police from carrying out their constitutional duties.

"Why should this court interfere with the police constitutional duties?" Kariko said.

Twivey suggested that the court should first decide on the validity of the legal bills from Paul Paraka Lawyers.

She said she was not seeking court orders to prevent the Investigation Task Force Sweep from investigating the payment of legal fees to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

Lawyer Robert Leo representing Marape supported Twivey’s submissions.

Lawyer Nicholas Miviri representing police asked the court if O’Neill had the constitutional function to stop police from carrying out its duties.

Miviri submitted an affidavit from task force chairman Sam Koim dated June 17 in support of his submission. Koim was present in court.

Kariko adjourned the matter to today to give time to Twivey and Leo to obtain instructions and respond to Koim’s affidavit.

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