25 Aug 2011

PNG govt fail to stop CJ from presiding over case challenging election of PM

9:02 am on 25 August 2011

The government of Papua New Guinea has failed in a bid to stop the chief justice of the Supreme Court from presiding over a case challenging the election of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

Mr O'Neill's lawyers had filed a motion asking the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to remove himself from hearing the case, because his son, Terry Injia, worked for a law firm employed by the opposition.

But Sir Salamo ruled yesterday there would be no conflict of interest after lawyers for former acting prime minister Sam Abal announced they had dropped Terry Injia's law firm, Steeles Lawyers, earlier in the day.

Sir Salamo said his son was no longer involved in the case, while handing down his decision to a packed court room in Port Moresby.

Sir Salamo ruled that an application to have him dismissed could again be raised when the case is heard by the full court in mid-September.

That's when he will sit on a panel of five judges charged with deciding if Mr O'Neill's election on the floor of parliament was constitutional.

Mr O'Neill took office on August 2 after a surprise vote of 70 to 24 against the government of Sir Michael Somare.

Less than two hours later, Mr O'Neill had been sworn in as prime minister by the governor-general and former acting prime minister, Sam Abal had announced he would challenge the vote in court.