The National Monday, December 13, 2010
By JULIA DAIA BORE
THE Supreme Court has cited parliament Speaker Jeffery Nape as “seriously” breaching certain sections of the constitution over the June 25 reappointment of Sir Paulias Matane to a second term as governor-general.
The five-judge bench, headed by Justice Bernard Sakora last Friday, also ruled that Nape had breached section 88(2) of the constitution when he did not allow parliament, through a simple majority, to vote in the new governor-general.
He also did not allow other candidates to be considered for nomination on the floor of parliament.
Sakora, when reading out the court’s decision last Friday, said Nape had breached section 95(4) of the constitution by exercising the powers, functions, duties and responsibilities of the speaker when he was, by virtue of section 95(2)(a), the acting governor-general.
“Nape had unlawfully exercised the powers, functions, duties and responsibilities of the speaker for a continuous period of almost one month,” Sakora told the court.
“The serious nature and extent of the speaker’s breach of the constitution, and the circumstances in which the breach is committed, has the consequence, in our opinion, that all proceedings of parliament on June 25 over the nomination of the next GG, including all votes, decisions, determinations, rulings and declarations, are unconstitutional and in-valid.”
The court explained that at midnight on May 26 when Sir Paulias’ six-year term expired, Nape automatically took over as acting governor-general.
“Nape became acting GG by operation of law. No formal advice or instrument of appointment had to be in place.”
From then until a new GG was appointed, Deputy Speaker Francis Marus was to take charge of all parliament proceedings.
However, according to the court, this did not happen. Nape had remained speaker and “did not, then or at any material time, perform any of the powers, functions, duties and responsibilities of the acting GG”.
The speaker will only be relieved of this obligation (and designated to the chief justice) if he was on leave, absent from the country or out of speedy and effective communication.
“There is no evidence that any such circumstances existed,” Sakora said in the ruling.
Morobe Governor Lurther Wenge and the Morobe government had gone to court questioning the validity of the entire process leading up to and including the declaration of Sir Paulias as governor-general by Nape.