Court to hear special references next Monday

National, Normal

The National, Thursday 09th Febuary 2012

THE Supreme Court will begin preliminary hearings on two special references relating to the legitimacy of  the government from next Monday.
This was decided by a three-judge bench hearing a series of cases relating to political developments in the country which led to wrangling between Sir Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill over who should be running the country’s affairs.
The courtroom was packed to capacity again yesterday as the bench headed by deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika, Bernard Sakora and Nicholas Kirriwom gave directives on how to deal with the 14 related cases before the court. 
The judges issued a blanket stay on all other cases while they focused on the two references –SCR 1 of 2012 filed by Dr Allan Marat and SCR 2 of 2012 filed by parliament.
Sir Michael’s lawyer, Kerenga Kua, yesterday also raised a question of competency on whether Marat, O’Neill’s appointed attorney-general, had the right to file a reference.
This would be among other questions to be raised in the next sitting of the Supreme Court.
Among the 12 cases stayed was an application to discharge orders concerning the suspension of Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.
The court will later decide on a time length of the proceedings, appoint a penal of judges to preside on the cases and clear other preliminary issues before the substantive hearings.
The reference filed by Marat consists of 29 constitutional questions relating to the actions of parliament since Aug 2 last year. It was when parliament passed a motion to create a vacancy in the office of the prime minister that subsequently removed Sir Michael from the post and appointed  O’Neill as prime minister.
The questions in the references seek the courts opinion on whether parliament had erred in any of its decisions or did anything outside of the constitution.
The questions include whether or not the MP’s seat becomes vacant when the MP is absent from three consecutive parliament secession, whether parliament had inherent power to elect a prime minister when the incumbent abandons the post, whether section 134 of the Constitution prevents the Supreme Court from making orders that dictate the duties of parliament and other relevant questions.
Rimbink Pato, a lawyer representing a party in one of the cases, said he supported the stand by Kua.
Pato suggested that the fastest way to deal with all the cases was for the Supreme Court to establish a legitimate attorney-general and prime minister first before references were heard.