Judge raises issue on four major court cases

Main Stories, National

The National- Wednesday, January 12, 2011


FOUR major court cases from last year, including matters over leadership tribunals for former treasurer and Aitape-Lumi MP Patrick Pruaitch and Public Enterprises Minister and Angoram MP Arthur Somare, a gag on the Finance Commission of Inquiry report and challenges against the Motigate report, have remained outstanding with no indication of actions to deal with them, a retiring high court judge said yesterday.

Justice Graham Ellis, whose one-year term with the National and Supreme Courts will end this week, said no one seemed to know what had become of these cases.

He said while the Supreme Court had struck out an appeal against the setting up of a leadership tribunal to investigate Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare over claims that he failed to submit annual returns, “what about the other four cases which are pending hearing and determination?”.

Ellis said the gag on the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department, Somare and Pruaitch challenging the appointment of their leadership tribunals and Sir Michael’s Supreme Court appeal in the Motigate affair were all gathering dust in Waigani.

The Motigate affair involved the clandestine flight of former Solomon Islands attorney-general Julian Moti to the island nation using a PNG Defence Force aircraft on Oct 10, 2006.

Moti was wanted in Australia on child sex abuse charges and had fled to the Solomons through Port Moresby.

Following widespread condemnation within PNG and abroad, including Australia, a Defence Board of Inquiry was established and completed a 200-page report on the matter. The final report was submitted to the government on March 15, 2007.

Moti’s legal team had applied for a judicial review and questioned the validity of court judge Justice Gibbs Salika sitting on the board hearing the proceedings. 

Sir Michael’s lawyer Kerenga Kua also contested the jurisdiction issues before Justice Sir Salamo Injia, with grounds to nullify the inquiry’s existence. 

The hearings had remained stagnant.

The Finance Commission of Inquiry investigated matters relating to more than 3,000 entries recorded in the department’s cash book report of 

transactions of amounts totalling K300,000 and above from Jan 1, 2000, to July 31, 2006. 

It took two years and eight months of on-off-on-off inquiry proceedings, plagued by questionable and constant changes of staff and funding woes.

When all was completed, private lawyer Paul Paraka for former Department of Prime Minister secretary Isaac Lupari, flew to Alotau and sought, and was granted, a stay by Justice Bernard Sakora stopping the 800-page report from being made a public document. 

Commenting on these matters, Ellis asked: “What is happening to these cases?

“Can someone explain to the people of PNG what, if anything, is happening in relation to these cases?”

He said authorities within the highest courts must act soon on this very important matters to put them to rest. 

“The continued stalling of these cases will only create lack of public confidence in the judiciary, which is the last bastion of hope for the people.

“Does the chief justice, the judges and the court registrar realise the loss of confidence in the judiciary that the failure to hear those cases is causing?” Ellis asked.