PNG Eastern Highlands Governor Fined In Contempt Of Court Penalty

Stems from issuance of a letter asking the provincial administrator to step down

By Daisy Pakawa

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, July 29, 2016) – Eastern Highlands Governor Julie Soso has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay K15,000 [US$4,600] fine for being in contempt of court.

Justice David Cannings, Justice Terrence Higgins and Justice Lawrence Kangwia ordered Ms Soso, the country’s only woman governor, to pay the money by August 31 or she will be jailed for six months. Ms Soso was ordered to pay from her own pocket and not from public funds because her actions were her private responsibility.

She was the second Governor to appear in court at Waigani this week. The previous day, Western Governor Ati Wobiro, who has been found guilty of attempt to defraud the people of Western of K7.06 million [US$2,168,000} and held in custody, was returned to Bomana jail after failing to secure a hearing on his bail application.

Yesterday, Ms Soso’s published decision read out by Justice Cannings, noting that mitigating factors outweighed aggravating factors.

There were 10 mitigation factors, including Ms Soso’s lack of prior convictions, the death of her husband last month and she showed remorse and apologised sincerely to the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and the people of Eastern Highlands.

The court also took into account that she was rushing to board a plane from Goroka to Port Moresby when she signed the contemptuous letter. When she realised the implication of the letter, she tried to correct the situation. In addition her breach of the Chief Justice’s court order was a single act and not a continuous process.

The court was pleased that Ms Soso offered to pay any fines with her own money.

The aggravating factors in her case were that she is a leader thus subject to the Leadership Code. And that the orders she had breached were from the highest court of the land (Supreme Court) and the most senior judiciary officer (the Chief Justice.)

Last month she was found guilty of issuing a letter asking Solomon Tato to step down as provincial administrator. This came after the Supreme Court through Sir Salamo Injia on February 15 restored Mr Tato as provincial administrator, pending the determination of an appeal.

Ms Soso, 54, is from Goroka and a mother of four and grandmother of nine. She comes from a humble beginning and has a long history of public and religious service.

PNG Post-Courier
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