Arrest order stopped to protect PM’s rights

National

By DEMAS TIEN
The Supreme Court has issued an interim order stopping police from arresting Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in relation to allegations of official corruption levelled against him.
The Supreme Court also issued an interim order staying a National Court decision and orders given on Tuesday which dismissed a judicial review case initially filed by former police commissioner Geoffrey Vaki in 2014 challenging the validity of a warrant of arrest issued by the Chief Magistrate Nerrie Eliakim on June 12, 2014 to arrest O’Neill.
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, presiding as a single Supreme Court judge, granted the interim orders yesterday to protect the rights of O’Neill pending his appeal filed on Wednesday which challenged the National Court’s decision.
Sir Salamo was satisfied with arguments submitted by a Queen’s Counsel Mal Varitimos, representing O’Neill, that  serious issues arose from the National Court’s decision which needed to be determined by the Supreme Court in the appeal.
Sir Salamo said the National Court’s decision to dismiss the judicial review case on the basis that the chief magistrate’s decision to issue a warrant of arrest was not reviewable, was against two binding decisions of the Supreme Court where it stated that the commissioner of police could challenge the validity of a warrant of arrest issued by a magistrate by way of a judicial review in the National Court.
Varitimos told the Supreme Court yesterday that the decision of Justice Colin Makail in the National Court would effectively mean that a warrant of arrest issued by a magistrate could not be challenged in court by any person directly affected by it.
He said this would undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.
Varitimos submitted that Justice Makail did not deal with the issues raised in the judicial review case.
He said Justice Makail had determined the whole case based on a threshold issue on whether the chief magistrate’s decision to issue the warrant of arrest could be reviewed by the court, which he ruled that it was not reviewable.
Varitimos said this threshold issue was not raised by the court or the lawyers during the trial in the National Court.
He also submitted that Justice Makail ignored to follow two Supreme Court decisions that stated that the police commissioner could challenge the validity of a warrant of arrest issued by a magistrate.
He said in one of these two Supreme Court decisions, a five-man Supreme Court bench specifically ruled that the particular warrant of arrest against O’Neill could be challenged by the commissioner of police by way of a judicial review in the National Court.
Lawyer Charlie Wara, representing Police Commissioner Gari Baki, and lawyer Emmanuel Asigau, representing the State, did not oppose submissions by Varitimos.
The court upheld Varitimos’ submissions and ordered a stay on the National Court decision and execution of the warrant of arrest against O’Neill pending the outcome of his appeal. The warrant of arrest against O’Neill was obtained by the deputy director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate Timothy Gitua before the chief magistrate on June 12, 2014 to arrest O’Neill on allegations that he corruptly directed to obtain a monetary benefit for Paul Paraka Lawyers in the discharge of  duties of his office as the prime minister.

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