Dispute played role in K27m award: Devete

National, Normal

THE in-house dispute between the acting Justice Department secretary and the Government’s two top litigation lawyers which led to the duo’s sacking, contributed to the awarding of the K27 million to businessman Dadi Toka by the National Court, the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) heard yesterday.
The protracted dispute involved acting Justice secretary Hitelai Polume-Kiele and then acting Solicitor-General Neville Devete and his deputy Laias Kandi.
Mr Devete told the CoI yesterday: “I would state at the outset that much of what transpired at the material time resulting in the awarding of the K27,784,536.00 by the National Court was directly and inevitably affected by the rift and stand-off between the Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat and Ms Polume-Kiele, over her unlawful suspension and termination of myself and my deputy which had a detrimental impact on the operations and administration of the Office of the Solicitor-General.”
Also, in a letter dated Sept 22 to the CoI’s Chief Commissioner Maurice Sheehan, Mr Devete stated: “This resulted in a number of legal proceedings which went before the national and supreme courts, which in the interim only recently, reinstated me and my deputy “ due to the ongoing capacity issues faced by the office of the Solicitor-General and a period of absence by me for almost 10 months (September 2008 to June 2009) due to my termination, the office was managed under direction of the acting secretary and it was during this period in which the assessment of over K27 million was made by the court.”
Mr Devete told the CoI yesterday that it was upon his return from his absence that he had taken steps to have the matter referred to the CoI as he thought this claim was excessive.
He read in newspapers about the court granting the K27 million to Mr Toka when he was away in East New Britain.
Explaining his office’s role in the matter, he said that he thought that something did not seem right.
Also present from the Office of the Solicitor-General besides Mr Devete was the lawyer who had initially taken charge of the matter, Gaure Odu.
Mr Odu told the CoI hearing into the matter of Toka Enterprises versus the State over the eight-hectare portion 2126 and allotments 9, 11 and 12 of section 136 between Kone Tigers Club and Port Moresby Country Club that he had only represented the matter in court once and was then posted out of town.
As a result, he took no further carriage of the matter.
Both officers from the Solicitor-General office also pointed out that another problem which also contributed to the Solicitor-General not providing good representation on behalf of the Lands Department was because there had been no response to letters their office had written to the office of the secretary and visits by the Solicitor-General’s lawyers to get more information regarding the matter concerning the land.
They said ongoing problems were faced by State lawyers when defending the State and its agencies, when instructions were never forthcoming.
Lands secretary Pepi Kimas told the CoI on Monday that he had not been served any  court documents.
John Goava, counsel for Toka Enterprises and Mr Toka, told the CoI yesterday that the court had conceded that service to the State Solicitor’s office was sufficient, as it represented the State and its entities in such matters.
Therefore, he had no need to serve the Lands secretary the court documents which were already with the relevant legal representatives for the State which was the Solicitor-General.