By JACOB POK
DEPUTY Chief Justice Gibbs Salika yesterday blasted Gulf province leaders, accusing them of deserting their people for the bright lights of Port Moresby.
Justice Salika said he was concerned that Gulf leaders, both elected and appointed, were working and living in the national capital while the people who voted for and appointed them and whom they should be looking after were leaderless back in the province.
“Both administrative and political leaders should go back and live with their people,” Justice Salika said.
Public Services Minister Peter O’Neill expressed similar sentiments two months ago, when meeting senior public servants for a workshop in Port Moresby and had issued directives for the senior Gulf bureaucrats to return to Kerema, or face disciplinary action.
Justice Salika’s comments yesterday came as he heard a case in the National Court in Port Moresby on a dispute over the chairmanship of the Kikori Gas Pipeline Landowners Association (KGPLA) whose defence counsel told the court that, among other things, the association needed funds to carry out projects in the Kikori district.
The judge said the funds might have been spent unnecessarily by their leaders in Port Moresby while their people, who gave them the mandate, are left without services.
Justice Salika told lawyers assisting in the proceedings that “leaders should go to their province and eat, walk and stay with their people.”
The disputing parties were interim executives and committee members of KGPLA.
Six plaintiffs, all interim committee members of KGPLA, want a court ruling over the term of office of interim chairman Mark Sarong, which had expired in June 2006. They said he was illegally occupying the office.
Mr Sarong’s lawyer, Philip Ame, told the court that his clients had obtained interim restraining orders, stopping interim
executives from drawing funds from the KGPLA account since Nov 26 last year when the matter went to court.
Mr Ame said a previous court hearing had ordered both parties to act upon consent and hold an annual general meeting at the Kikori council chambers to appoint proper office bearers to run the association.
Lawyer for the six interim members, Ignas Mambei, said there were two separate meetings held at the same time so there was confusion about which was the genuine meeting.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Justice Salika declared both meetings null and void.
He ruled that Mr Sarong’s interim restraining orders remained in force until the court decides on the proper office bearers of the KGPLA.