Judges deny non-availability claims

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, December 2, 2010

AT least six judges were available on Monday at the Waigani National Court to hear sidelined Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare’s urgent injunction to stop proceedings against him on alleged breaches of the leadership code.
A judge said on Tuesday: “It is our job to hear any court matter brought before us and to do so impartially.
“We are here for that purpose. It is our profession to do so and, to say that no judge was available on Monday, is incorrect,” a judge, who did not want to be named, said.
The others, who also did not want to be named, said such a statement implied that they had deliberately made themselves unavailable on Monday.
Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika, who was one of the six judges, said he was in his chambers conducting regular business soon after hearing motions which ended about 2.30pm.
He said he was not aware that Sir Michael’s lawyer, Kerenge Kua, was looking for a judge to hear his case.
Salika said that if asked, while he was still in court, he would have entertained or heard the matter.
Justice Kandakasi, who was slated to hear the case, was busy with other court matters.
Later, Kua was told that the matter had to be referred to the registry as both the chief justice and his deputy were busy in court.
Kua had briefly appeared before Sir Salamo Injia at about 3pm at courtroom three and was told that, since it was an administrative matter, he should go and consult with the other parties and the registrar of court.
Yesterday, registrar Ian Augerea said he talked to the lawyers in his office to establish their requirement but time ran out at 4.06pm.
However, he said this was normal to take lawyers to his office to establish what they required.
“That was it, there was nothing sinister about such meetings,” Augerea said yesterday.
Salika also confirmed that judges were available on Monday doing their routine work, just like he was.
The National was unable to get Kua’s comments on the claim that six judges were available, but not consulted, to hear his client’s case.