Court orders reinstatement of Lands Dept secretary

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By DAPHNE WANI
THE National Court has ordered that Luther Sipison, picture, be reinstated as Department of Lands and Physical Planning Secretary within seven days.
Sipison was suspended in relations to investigations regarding the Manumanu land deal for the relocation of the Lancron naval base.
Judge Leka Nablu on Tuesday upheld a judicial review application by Sipison and ruled that “for the avoidance of doubt, the plaintiff shall be reinstated to his position within seven days of this order”.
Justice Nablu said the court was persuaded that the decision to suspend Sipison was unreasonable because there was not sufficient time to consider his reply to allegations made against him.
She said the court was persuaded by the evidence of the letter of the chairman of administrative inquiry into the Manumanu land deal whose findings showed that there was no cause to suspend him.
“The failure to reinstate the plaintiff is unreasonable, irrational and absurd. The inquiry did not find any evidence of wrongdoing (by Sipison) which would have warranted the suspension to continue.”
The court was told that Sipison had received a letter from Prime Minister Peter O’Neill dated
Feb 3, 2017, directing him to provide an explanation for the sale of Portions 406 and Portion 154 at Manu, Aroa, in Central. Sipison responded on Feb 8, 2017, and on the same day learnt that he had been suspended by acting Governor-General Theo Zurenuoc.
Sipison was appointed to act as Lands Secretary in 2015. On Sept 28, 2016, he was appointed to the position.

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