Court’s decision disputed

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The National, Tuesday July 12th, 2016

The Speaker of Parliament Theo Zurenuoc and two others have filed an appeal challenging a national court decision that ordered the return of cultural objects removed from Parliament House three years ago.
Waigani National Court judge Justice David Cannings on May 31 gave Zurenuoc, L&A construction Limited and others six months to repair, return or replace the 19 masks and a totem pole that were damaged and removed from Parliament House.
Principal legal officer Kaiyoma Akeya from the Office of the Solicitor-General filed the appeal at the Supreme Court registry in Waigani on Friday.
Akeya acts for the appellants Zurenuoc, the chairman of Parliament House Committee and the State, seeking to quash Cannings’ decision.
East Sepik Governor Sir Michael Somare and director for the National Museum and Art Gallery Dr Andrew Moutu are named as respondents in the appeal.
The grounds in the notice of appeal state that Cannings erred in fact and law when he found that the respondents had a genuine and legally sufficient interest in the subject matter of the proceedings.
The appellants argued that there was no evidence to show that the respondents had the authority of the members of Parliament or any other interested parties that the appellants’ actions or inactions violated the respondents constitutional rights protected under Section 45 of the Constitution. The appellants also argued that Moutu was a servant of the State and there was no evidence that he wrote to the attorney-general seeking legal representation under Section 7(1) of the Attorney General Act 1989.
Sir Michael and Moutu commenced proceedings in March 2014, challenging Zurenuoc’s decision to remove the objects because the objects were of national cultural property.
Between November and December 2013, a total of 19 masks on the lintel at the main entrance and a totem pole in the Grand Hall of Parliament were removed and damaged on the authority of the Speaker.
The court after completing a trial found that the damaging and removal of cultural objects at the Parliament House were unlawful and unconstitutional. It found that the objects that were damaged and removed were national cultural property, protected under the National Cultural Property (Preservation) Act.
The court further ordered that Zurenuoc, chairman of Parliament House committee, L&A Construction and all other persons be permanently restrained from further damaging and removing the objects of cultural decoration at the Parliament House, unless such decisions were approved by Parliament at a meeting.