Reports by KARO JESSE
Lawyer Greg Sheppard representing applicant Peter O’Neill
The Parliament sitting of Nov 17 was unconstitutional because Speaker Job Pomat did not have the power to recall Parliament.
The court should make a declaratory order to declare the decision of Parliament when it met on Nov 13 and adjourned to Dec 1 was constitutionally valid because the motion to adjourn was carried by a majority of 57 votes to 39 as required under the Standing Orders.
The question to ask is whether the motion passed by Parliament on Nov 13 to adjourn its sitting to Dec 1 is inconsistent with Section 2 of the organic law on the calling of parliament.
And in any event, does Speaker Job Pomat have any power under the constitution to unilaterally “overrule” a ruling of the deputy speaker made during a sitting of parliament several days after the sitting was adjourned, and after parliament agreed to the question the subject of the ruling?
Opposition Leader Belden Namah moved the motion to adjourn Parliament sitting to Dec 1 and not a new sitting.
A majority of 57 voted that Namah move a motion to discharge and appoint certain members of the Members Private Business Committee which was agreed to by Parliament.
- Namah then sought leave to move another motion without notice to adjourn parliament which was granted by the deputy speaker. Speaker Job Pomat also gave insufficient time to recall Parliament when he realised the inconsistency of the decision of the deputy speaker.
There is no law that allows the speaker unilaterally to overrule a resolution of the parliament. What right does the speaker have to nullify a decision of Parliament?
And if the decision of Parliament on Nov 13 was not overruled, why did not it meet on Dec 1?
The court should declare that:
- The decision of Speaker Job Pomat on Nov 16 and 17 is unconstitutional and effective;
- An order in a nature of declaration that the meeting of parliament on Nov 17 was unconstitutional;
- An order in the nature of a declaration that the 2021 Budget purportedly passed at the meeting on Nov 17 was unconstitutional;
- Parliament to adjourn to April 20, 2021 is unconstitutional.
Since it’s the issue for Parliament, the court should make an order to recall parliament to fix the problem to protect the dignity of Parliament.
Lawyer Charles Mende representing Speaker Job Pomat
What the Speaker did on Nov 16 to recall parliament on Nov 17 was to restore and uphold the dignity of Parliament and maintain order and regulating its proceedings through the administration of its affairs.
The Speaker made the decision to recall parliament after identifying a breach of Section 2 of the Organic Law on the calling of parliament.
The provision allowed only a minister to move a motion without notice to adjourn Parliament.
On Nov 13, deputy speaker Koni Iguan granted leave to Opposition Leader Belden Namah to move that Parliament be adjourned to Dec 1.
The Speaker became aware of this adjournment and was of the view that the adjournment was not valid because Section 2 of
the Organic Law and Section 43 of the Standing Orders say that only a minister may move a motion.
On Nov 13, a motion without notice was moved by a person other than a minister as provided under the Standing Orders and Organic Law.
There was a non-compliance of the requirement of the constitutional law and therefore the non-compliance invalidated that adjournment made in Parliament on Nov 13.
The Speaker realised that the decision of the deputy speaker on Nov 13 was wrong and made a press statement on Nov 16 that the meeting of parliament which commenced on Nov 10 will continue on Nov 17.
On Nov 16, the Speaker announced his decision to overrule the deputy speaker’s ruling of Nov 13.
The decision of Parliament was a consequential decision based on a clear breach of constitution law therefore it was invalid.
The Speaker was at liberty to recall parliament to correct the errors of the deputy speaker. He validly recalled parliament on Nov 17.
Lawyer Nemo Yalo representing Justice Minister and Attorney-General Pila Niningi
DEPUTY speaker Koni Iguan presiding over the Nov 13 sitting of Parliament breached Section 2 of the Organic Law on the calling of Parliament when he allowed Opposition Leader Belden Namah to move a motion to adjourn it to Dec 1.
In relation to any meeting of Parliament, the time and date shall be fixed through a motion without notice by a minister.
Applicant Peter O’Neill through his lawyer Greg Sheppard of Young and Williams is asking the court to turn a blind eye or
ignore the serious breach of Section 2 of the Organic Law.
The simple fact is that when Namah proposed and deputy speaker (Iguan) allowed him to move a motion without notice to adjourn parliament to Dec 1, both breached the organic law which states that only a minister can move a motion without notice to adjourn parliament.
And the 2021 Budget which was passed during the Nov 17 sitting was constitutionally valid.
Section 209 of the constitution is a general provision that confers power on the parliament to authorise and control the executive arm’s raising and expenditure of finance.
There were no breaches of the constitution on rights of members of parliament because opposition MPs chose to ignore the organic law to hijack the budget session when they decide not to continue with the November meeting of Parliament.
The court must make an order in the nature of a declaration that parliament sitting of Nov 17 and the passing of the2021 Budget were constitutionally valid.