Court reminded of power separations

National, Normal

The National – Tuesday, December 14, 2010

THE judiciary cannot force the legislature to recall parliament, leader of government business Paul Tiensten said yesterday.
“The court has spoken and we respect it but, at the end of the day, there is a clear separation of powers,” he said, one day after relinquishing his acting governor-general position following a Supreme Court ruling last Friday to nullify incumbent Sir Paulias Matane’s June 25 appointment and ordering Speaker Jeffery Nape to be acting governor-general.
“The three arms of government must function independently,” Tiensten, who reverts to his substantive position as National Planning Minister and leader of government business, said yesterday.
He said cabinet would meet tomorrow, chaired by acting Prime Minister Sam Abal, “to see how it addresses the pressing issues such as the court ruling”.
The Supreme Court had ordered a recall of parliament “within 40 days” to reappoint a new vice-regal.
Tiensten also made it clear that any recall of parliament would only deal with the appointment, and no other businesses would be entertained by government.
“There will not be any other business except for the governor-general’s election.
“There will not be any room for a vote of no-confidence,” he said.
Tiensten said the Supreme Court decision would be studied by the speaker as head of the legislature and attorney-general on behalf of the executive government.
“The court has made a decision and, at the end of the day, it is the mandate of the two arms of government to study the court decision and come up with an independent decision to advice on how we move forward.”
He took the opportunity to elaborate on the cabinet decision to appoint him as acting governor-general for the past seven days, calling on his critics to study the constitution and protocols of the Westminster system of government “before beating on empty drums”.
Tiensten said he was appointed to endorse the acting appointment of a minister because the three people qualified to act as governor-general in the absence of Sir Paulias Matane – the speaker, chief justice and attorney-general – were not available.
“The speaker was not available, the chief justice expressed his unavailability because he will be on holidays and there was no attorney-general due to the cabinet reshuffle.”
He said given the scenario, the NEC could appoint any minister of state to be acting governor-general and he was appointed for seven days during which time he swore in Abal as the new deputy prime minister.