Ferry disaster trial in March

National

THE Rabaul Queen ferry disaster trial proper will resume in March but a date is yet to be fixed.
On trial are ferry owner Peter Sharp and his captain Anthony Tsiau, both facing 172 charges of manslaughter and sending or taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea.
The ferry sank of Finschhafen, Morobe, on Feb 2, 2012.
About 300 passengers were on board.
The trial started on April 9 with witnesses from around the country flown into East New Britain to give evidence at the Kokopo National Court.
After the last lot of witnesses gave evidence on Sept 9, the trial stalled because of funding problems to pay for witnesses’ travel, police and prosecution.
Presiding judge Terrence Higgins, on Nov 16, summoned Treasury Secretary, Dairi Vele, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan and Justice Secretary Dr Lawrence Kalinoe to explain non-allocation of funds to the police and public prosecutor’s office to ensure the completition of the trial.
Vele’s lawyer Jerome Sioni appeared in court on Tuesday saying warrants were released.
Yesterday, state lawyers raised in court that though warrants had been released, it was logistically impossible for the trial to continue for the remaining of this year as there would be delay in the transfer of funds.
The money would be used to buy tickets for witnesses, secure accommodation and arrange for a maritime expert witness from Australia, Martin Renilson, to sort out his business visa and fly into the country to give evidence.
Yesterday, Kalinoe appeared and told the court that Ngangan was unable to make the flight to Kokopo.
Kalinoe said that as far as transfer of funds was concerned, it was not an issue.
Higgins asked Kalinoe when exactly the funds would be transferred and Kalinoe responded that concerned agencies would ensure the funding went through the proper process and reach the police and public prosecutors office.
Kalinoe said it was just the economic situation the country was facing but money was now available for the trial to progress.
The State indicated that it had called 150 witnesses so far and was planning to call another 150 when the trial resumed.

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