By GIDEON KINDIWA
THE Supreme Court has allowed Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch to proceed with a court reference questioning the election of James Marape as prime minister.
A three-man bench consisting of Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Justice Ellenas Batari and Justice Oagile Bethuel Dingake granted an application filed by Pruaitch’s lawyers Greg Sheppard and Philip Tabuchi of Young and Williams Lawyers regarding his standing.
The judges ruled that Pruaitch as the opposition leader had standing and sufficient interest in pursuing the issue in court to determine whether Marape’s election in Parliament on May 30 was legal.
Sheppard submitted that Pruaitch had standing because it was a legitimate role of the opposition leader to hold government accountable.
“By virtue of the office he holds and the functions of that office, he is entitled to raise significant Constitutional issues,” Sheppard said.
He said Pruaitch had satisfied every prerequisite to file the reference under Section 18(1) of the Constitution as he was the Opposition Leader and a citizen with a genuine concern on the issue.
He argued that Pruaitch was not a busy body meddling around with other people’s business but had sought to raise important constitutional issues.
He was responding to Nemo Yalo, representing Justice Minister and Attorney-General Davis Steven, who told the court that Pruaitch did not have any standing because he had nominated former prime minister Peter O’Neill to hold the position again.
And when O’Neill did not accept the nomination, Yalo said Pruaitch joined others in electing Marape “which is not genuine”.
Yalo submitted that Pruaitch was a “busy body” and his application was not about keeping the executive arm of the government accountable, nor to correct Speaker Job Pomat.
Meanwhile, the same court granted an application by Speaker Pomat to become an intervener in the proceedings.
It however dismissed a similar application by Parliament acting clerk Kala Aufa.
The judges ruled that the role of the clerk was to advise the Speaker and it was unnecessary for the clerk to become a party of its own in the proceedings. The substantive matter will be heard on Sept 20.
By GIDEON KINDIWA