Integrity law under spotlight

National, Normal


JUDGES sitting on a Supreme Court panel hearing arguments into the validity of the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPAC) yesterday raised questions about a section of the Organic Law that deals with Members of Parliament switching political parties.
Lawyer Alois Jerewai, for Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, raised an argument on section 59, subsection 3, of the law saying an MP who resigns or leaves a political party would be guilty of misconduct in office.
But Justice Bernard Sakora, who was among the panel of judges, questioned Mr Jerewai on how such an offence (under the Leadership Code) could be committed when an MP decided to leave office (resign) and no longer holds office.
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia also questioned if such statuary laws were imported from other countries like New Zealand, England and the United States, where political leaders are allowed to move freely from one party to another.
Justice Nicolas Kirriwom also questioned Mr Jerewai on whether there were laws to control how somebody feels and thinks.
Mr Jerewai countered that the issues to amend the Organic Laws should be made by the Parliamentary process and not by the courts.
But Justice Sakora cut in, telling Mr Jerewai not to question the jurisdiction of the court.
He said the validity of the Organic Laws and amendments agreed by MPs and passed in Parliament would still come before the court to be tested.
Further submissions will continue today. 
The OLIPAC Supreme Court reference was instituted by the provincial executives of the Fly River provincial government of Western province to amend certain provision of the organic law that restricts MPs to exercise some of their choices.