The National, Wednesday 16th November 2011
By SAMUEL RAITANO
THE Supreme Court has refused to hear an application by two senior government ministers to set aside a court order which directed that they be charged with contempt.
Acting Prime Minister Belden Namah and Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat appeared before a five-man bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia who they had sought to suspend last week.
According to the court, the refusal was because the application stemmed from events related to the East Sepik provincial executives’ special reference. And, as far as it was concerned, the only unfinished business in the case was the ruling expected on Dec 9.
The court refused to hear what it termed as an “interlocutory application” and, instead, delved straight into the contempt issue.
It allowed lawyers representing Namah and Marat to only talk about how much their clients would pay for bail and what orders the court would issue to the contemnors so that they did not interfere with the court’s handling of the special reference and its decision expected on Dec 9.
The full bench, headed by Sir Salamo, ordered Marat and Namah to pay cash bail of K5,000 each.
The court ordered the Supreme Court registrar to file and serve a formal motion for contempt
against the two defendants by next Friday.
The two will appear in court for contempt charges on Dec 12. The payment of K5,000 was one of two conditions set by the court in order to grant them bail.
The other bail condition was that Marat and Namah “and their agents/servants, or their principal, shall not interfere with court deliberations on the decision on the East Sepik provincial executives’ special reference set for Dec 9”.
Though Marat’s lawyer John Griffin tried to raise the urgent application, Sir Salamo said the court was not interested in entertaining any more interlocutory applications in regard to the special reference case.
Sir Salamo said last week’s turn of events, in which the executive arm of government seemingly crossed blades with the judiciary, was because of the special reference.
Sir Salamo, therefore, said the court would not hear an application stemming from the special reference, as everything related to the matter was complete and the decision alone was awaited by all parties.
On Monday, Namah and Marat had voluntarily surrendered themselves to police to be arrested and detained, following last Friday’s Supreme Court orders. They were released on their own recognisance bail which lapsed when they appeared in court yesterday.
The order for their arrest stemmed from last Thursday’s decision by the National Executive Council to suspend Sir Salamo on allegations of misconduct.
Supreme Court judge Justice Bernard Sakora then ordered a stay on the suspension and issued orders for the arrest of Namah and Marat for contempt of court.
It was because the decision by the NEC was allegedly coordinated by Namah and Marat and purported to interfere with the ruling on the special reference questioning the constitutionality of the formation of the O’Neill government on Aug 2.
Sir Salamo heads the five-man bench in that ruling.
Yesterday, state lawyers Griffin and Manuel Varitimos told the court that the NEC decision to suspend Sir Salamo had been revoked, following a meeting on Monday evening.
Griffin said according to an affidavit sworn yesterday by his client, Marat had supported the revocation of the NEC decision.
Namah’s lawyer Varitimos also said the same of his client.
Derek Wood, the lawyer representing the National and Supreme Court registrar, told the court that he did not oppose the presentation of the affidavits to court.
Meanwhile, Marat and Namah were detained yesterday at the Waigani courthouse to await the issue of their bail certificates. They were released to pay the bail at the finance office by 4pm.
They were accompanied by several ministers and MPs.
The substantive hearing of the contempt proceeding is set for Dec 12, which is three days after the ruling on whether the government was formed constitutionally.