22 May 2012

PNG's Parliament recalled for a special sitting today following court ruling

6:49 am on 22 May 2012

Papua New Guinea's parliament has been recalled for a special sitting today after the Supreme Court again ordered the return of Sir Michael Somare to the prime ministership.

The court's ruling yesterday came as candidates began campaigning in earnest for the June national elections.

Two of the five judges abstained from making a ruling, with Justice Bernard Sakora saying that to participate would contradict his oath as a judge.

Three judges - chief justice Sir Salamo Injia, Les Gavara-Nanu and Nicholas Kerriwom - ruled yesterday that Sir Michael remained an MP despite being dumped last year and that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's ascension to the top job remained unconstitutional.

Sir Salamo said the decision was legally binding and should be obeyed by public servants, government agencies and the Speaker of parliament.

Peter O'Neill, who yesterday was in his Southern Highlands electorate of Ialibu-Pangia for his nomination as a candidate in the upcoming poll, said the decision by the three judges smacked of "judicial corruption" and was an attempt to disrupt the election.

A spokesman for O'Neill said parliament had been recalled for 10 this morning, a week after it was dissolved for the June 23 poll.

Mr O'Neill also called on Somare's parliamentary supporters - many of whom have boycotted parliament since the August 2 vote to dump Somare government - to attend the session.

Mr O'Neill is reported to have said the election would go ahead as scheduled and that parliament is convening to officially disregard the Supreme Court ruling.

The government has been trying to remove chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia since November.

Police arrested him earlier this year, alleging he had misappropriated funds belonging to the family of a dead judge.

The court dismissed the case, calling the police investigation an abuse of process.