5 Apr 2012

Supporters of former PNG PM fail to get injunction on new law

4:47 am on 5 April 2012

The supporters of former Papua New Guinea prime minister Sir Michael Somare have failed to get an injunction against the controversial Judicial Conduct Bill that allows parliament to suspend judges.

The court heard the application for the injunction yesterday evening.

The move is in response to parliament voting earlier in the day to effectively suspend two of the nation's top judges, after Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia refused to disqualify himself from overseeing hearings into the government's legitimacy.

Lawyers for Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat had moved to have Sir Salamo recuse himself from the hearings on Tuesday, saying he would indirectly benefit from ruling against the government.

On Wednesday, just over an hour after Sir Salamo rejected arguments for his stepping aside, parliament moved to suspend him and Justice Nicholas Kerriwom.

In introducing the motion to suspend the pair, leader of government business Moses Maladina said PNG was facing a national crisis.

He said Papua New Guinea is experiencing a serious crisis severely rocking the foundations of the three arms of government, the corner stones that hold this nation together.

The vote was carried on voices before parliament was adjourned until Thursday.

Dame Carol Kidu, who leads the two members who make up PNG's opposition, was heard shouting, "We will regret this", when the vote was passed.

Since November last year the government has repeatedly tried to suspend Sir Salamo, only to have the court overturn the order.

Police arrested him last month on allegations of trying to pervert the course of their investigation into his handling of court finances.

The court quickly issued a stay on proceedings after his arrest, calling the police action an abuse of process.

The government also wants Justice Kerriwom gone after a memo bearing his signature and calling on the judiciary to band together and defend themselves against government attacks was leaked on line.

The parliamentary vote means Sir Salamo and Justice Kerriwom will be referred to Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio, who will in turn refer the pair to a tribunal of former judges for investigation.

While before the tribunal, they will not be allowed to oversee any court hearings.