PNG Court Rules Incumbent Can Remain Governor Of Hela Province

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Substantive hearing about no-confidence motion to come in mid-February

By Jacob Pok

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 8, 2016) – Anderson Agiru will remain Governor of Hela Province, the National Court ruled yesterday.

The incumbent was successful in his application to be recognised as Governor pending the substantive hearing on February 19.

Justice Derek Hartshorn accepted Agiru’s application to restrain Komo-Margarima MP Francis Potape from assuming the role as governor.

The ruling means that Mr Agiru would continue as Hela Governor while other issues pertaining to his overthrow by Mr Potape and some of the provincial assembly members would be determined properly through the court process.

While an elated Mr Agiru welcomed the ruling in Port Moresby, Mr Potape, also in Port Moresby, said he and his 10 provincial assembly supporters will boycott the proposed assembly and provincial executive meeting on January 22.

Mr Agiru had sought the National Court ruling after he was unceremoniously dumped in a vote of no-confidence by Mr Potape and several provincial assembly members on December 29.

He told the court that the move to overthrow him was illegal and did not follow due process. He also said that political stability in Hela would be at stake in all levels of administration and asked the court to use its discretionary powers to restore him as governor and restrain Potape from claiming the post.

He told the court that by operation of law, he should be the governor because he was elected by the people of Hela to lead as the governor of the province.

Mr Potape, through his lawyers, had opposed the application and argued that the provincial assembly invoked provisions of Section 21 of the Organic Law of the Provincial and Local Level Government to oust Mr Agiru.

After going through the submissions, Justice Hartshorn accepted Agiru’s application and allowed him to remain Governor and restrained Potape from the post pending the substantive hearing.

Mr Potape plans to appeal the court decision.

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