7 Feb 2012

PNG Supreme Court adjourned amid power struggle

3:28 pm on 7 February 2012

Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court has briefly adjourned hearings into the nation's ongoing political dispute until a heavy police presence is removed from the court grounds, after the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, was barred from entering.

The court had ordered all the major players involved in the recent political upheaval into court today to give directions on a plethora of cases stemming from the constitutional case that restored the deposed prime minister Sir Michael Somare, to power following his four-month absence from PNG.

Also in the packed courtroom was Sir Michael's political rival, the effective prime minister Peter O'Neill, as well as both men's nominees for police chief and defence force chief.

But the three-man bench refused to continue hearings, ordering the police commissioner Tom Kulunga to remove a heavy police presence from the court grounds.

The acting Chief Justice, Gibbs Salika, told the courtroom they want a free environment, meaning Sir Salamo must be allowed access.

The hearing is scheduled to continue this afternoon, pending the removal of armed guards.

Sir Salamo was suspended by Mr O'Neill and his cabinet on Friday, pending an investigation by a tribunal of judges into his alleged mismanagement of court funds.

The Supreme Court placed an immediate stay on that suspension.

It was the fourth attempt by the O'Neill government to have Sir Salamo removed.