PNG Court Halts Leadership Tribunal Proceedings Against PM

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Constitutionality of process heads to Supreme Court, inquiry delayed

By Adrian Mathias

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 9, 2015) – Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has put off the leadership tribunal from beginning inquiry into allegations of misconduct in office against him.

In the National Court yesterday, he successfully referred an application of provisions of constitutional laws relating to his referral by the Public Prosecutor to the Supreme Court.

This means the tribunal has been temporarily halted until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutional issues.

The tribunal comprises retired New Zealand judge Sir Peter Blanchard (chairman) and members retired Australian Federal Court judge John von Boussa and Justice Salatiel Lenalia who were appointed last November 27 to inquire into the alleged misconduct against the PM.

Justice David Cannings yesterday also granted Mr O’Neill an interim injunction restraining the Public Prosecutor from bringing or continuing proceedings in the misconduct claim.

The Supreme Court will firstly on whether the Public Prosecutor was permitted to seek further evidence from the Ombudsman Commission before making the decision to proceed with matter and refer it to the leadership tribunal.

It will also rule on whether the Public Prosecutor could amend the matter by, for example, add to or by varying the misconduct allegations.

Secondly, if answers to these questions are negative, the Supreme Court is asked to rule whether the Public Prosecutor had the jurisdiction to investigate, inquire into and determine the misconduct in office allegations against the Prime Minister.

Justice Cannings the granting of these orders to the Prime Minister was in the interests of justice that the tribunal would not be put a position of being obliged to conduct its proceedings while constitutional questions that would have an impact on whether it has jurisdiction, are in the process of being heard and determined.

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