Court asked to clarify PM’s election

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OPPOSITION Leader Patrick Pruaitch has filed a Supreme Court reference seeking the court’s assistance to interpret the law through which James Marape became prime minister, and whether the election was constitutional.
Pruaitch was represented by Philip Tabuchi, from Young and Williams Lawyers, yesterday when the application was brought before a three-man Supreme Court bench. The bench consisted of Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Justice Ellenas Batari, and Justice Oagile Key Dingake.
The reference will be seeking leave of the court to interpret section 50, 59, 108, 142 and 158(2) of the Constitution that addresses any purported withdrawal of the nomination for the vacant position of the prime minister other than the nominator was unconstitutional.
Pruaitch, in his application, takes issue with Parliament Speaker Job Pomat when he accepted and then withdrew his (Pruaitch) nominated candidate, former prime minister Peter O’Neill, in June when there was a vacancy in the Prime Minister’s Office after O’Neill had stepped down.
The reference also argues that after the speaker closed nomination of Tari-Pori MP (Marape), Ialibu-Pangia MP (O’Neill) and Moresby North-West MP Sir Mekere Morauta, O’Neill informed Parliament that he was withdrawing.
The application further argues that O’Neill’s announcement was done after Pomat had declared nominations closed, then proceeded under standing orders 7A(8) as if there were only two nominations, and subsequently Marape was elected.
Pruaitch’s application also stated: “Whether a question of facts arises for determination by the court on the application, (if questions of fact need to be determined, the court may, in accordance with order 3, Rule 3, direct a judge to find the facts before the issue of Constitutional interpretation is referred to the Supreme Court). The application goes on to suggest Marape and Pomat be interveners in the matter, as they could be parties that may directly be affected.
Meanwhile, the bench granted leave for Attorney-General Davis Steven to intervene. He was represented by Solicitor-General Tauvasa Tanuvasa.
Sir Gibbs, on behalf of the bench, asked Tanuvasa to file a standing response to the reference before the court could deal with the issue of whether the application by Pruaitch has standing. “The matter is adjourned for 14 days for the attorney-general to file a standing response by Aug 30, and the matter will return for hearing on Sept 5,” Sir Gibbs said.