JULIA DAIA BORE
SUPREME Court judge Justice Bernard Sakora yesterday said leaders of provincial governments were entitled to question the validity of the Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC).
Justice Sakora said Members of Parliament, who headed their provincial executive councils, were entitled to raise questions on the Constitution and its accompanying laws, and asked who, if not they, would do so on behalf of the people of the country.
Justice Sakora made the comments after Alois Jerewai, the lawyer for Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and the National Executive Council, said provincial governments should remain within their jurisdictions of provincial government matters and not venture into questioning the validity or otherwise of constitutional issues.
Mr Jerewai said this in his submission yesterday to the five-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika and senior judges Bernard Sakora, Nicholas Kirriwom and Les Gavera-Nanu.
Justice Sakora responded that if MPs could not raise such questions, as in the Supreme Court reference on the OLIPPAC, then who else in PNG would do so on behalf of the people.
His comments were supported by Justice Salika, who said the Morobe provincial government had made it its business to regularly comment on many constitutional issues, which was healthy and showed democracy in action in a society.
“So what is the difference in this reference case?” Justice Salika asked.
Mr Jerewai said his clients were of the opinion that certain sections of the OLIPPAC covered in the reference did not need to be debated as they complemented the Constitution and, therefore, must not be done away with.
He pointed out section 12(4) of the Constitution, which the referrer has raised in the reference, and said that this was an enabling provision of the entire issue in question and, therefore, it could not be done away with.
He called on the court to consider this matter before further submissions were dealt with.
But Justice Sakora said that instead of raising this point, Mr Jerewai should be dealing with the reference in its entirety, from the beginning, to counter the questions raised by the referrer relating to the sections of the OLIPPAC that gave rise to the Supreme Court reference.
These included the sections of the OLIPPAC and its validity, which is the subject of the special reference and its constitutional law provisions that include section 115: parliamentary privileges; section 111: right to introduce bills; section 27: responsibilities of office; section 45: freedom of conscience, thought and religion; section 47: freedom of assembly and association; section 127: purposes of subdivision H; section 128: registered political parties; section 129: integrity of political parties; section 130: integrity of candidates and section 130A: provisions relating to political parties.
Meanwhile, Peter Donigi, lawyer for intervener and Deputy Opposition leader Bart Philemon, made a detailed submission in support of the referrer Dr Bob Danaya and the Fly River provincial executive council.
He reiterated the reasons for the invalidation of sections of the OLIPPAC and why they contradicted the Constitution and denied MPs of their democratic right as representatives of the people.
Mr Donigi specified sections of the law which granted the Supreme Court every right to make interpretations on such a reference.
The hearing continues into its third day today.