National Court suspends cases

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THE National Court in Waigani and the rest of the country will be closed from today until May 11 as part of the judiciary’s response to the coronavirus, says Registrar Ian Augerea.
In a memo to court staff and the public, Augerea said the National Court would be closed to the public, except for urgent matters.
He said a limited number of staff in National Court locations would continue to attend to urgent matters only. He said places where there were no resident judges and served only by court circuits, would also be closed until May 11.
In relation to access to the courts by the public, Augerea said: “There will be no public gallery access to any of the court rooms to reduce the possibility of judges and staff coming into contact with members of the public who might be infectious and not yet showing any symptoms.”
He said the National Court would deal with urgent cases by judges who were assigned to that task.
“What is urgent will be decided by the registrar, the deputy registrars and the judge administrator at each National Court location,” Augerea said. He urged the judges, lawyers and parties to use electronic means to file and deal with urgent cases.
“As of Monday, 23rd, all new cases must be filed by email to the registrar, the two deputy registrars or Mathew Bae at Waigani,” he said.
“Registry counters in all other locations will be closed and communication with the registries will be through email and phone numbers.
“Once matters are filed, hearings can be conducted through telephone or other electronic means.
“Where it is not possible to deal with urgent matters electronically in accordance, they can be heard in a court room.
“For a hearing in a court room, the persons attending will be restricted to only the judge and essential court staff as well as a party and his or her lawyer.
“In representative actions, only the lead plaintiff or defendant will be permitted, or as the presiding judge upon due consideration of the risks of allowing more persons may determine.”

Police conduct road checks after strike by mine workers

POLICE are closely monitoring and conducting road checks along the Bulolo Highway after criminal activities in Bulolo rose over the weekend, says Morobe police commander Supt Alex N’Drasal.

Alex N’drasal

Police personnel have been deployed to Bulolo and a further 16-men are on the ground at Hidden Valley gold mine after workers there went on strike following the coronavirus threat.
He said Hidden Valley workers went on strike after a suspected case involving an expatriate was reported recently at the mine site.
N’Drasal said police would be on the ground at the mine area until the situation there was addressed fully with further instructions given.
“We are conducting road checks to monitor those criminals and their movements going in and out of Bulolo and Wau as well as Lae and other areas,” N’Drasal said.
He said these criminals were likely to take opportunities during the coronavirus situation at Hidden Valley mine and affect the movement of the public movements and other activities.
Asked to confirm about a rumour that police were doing the road checks to control the movements of public in and out of Bulolo, Wau and Lae, N’Drasal said that was not yet the case.
“We will only act on that, once we receive directions from the police hierarchy and the commissioner himself, instructing us to do that,” he said.
“At the moment, it is the normal police routine patrols that we are engaging in.”
N’Drasal said, however, if the directions come from police headquarters instructing them to do so, police were ready to do as per the instructions given by the authorities.
Meanwhile, police in the National Capital District will not allow any public gathering of five people or more.

Bank to reduce number of customers at any one time

BANK South Pacific chief executive Robin Fleming says the bank may reduce the number of customers at their branches.
He made the comment in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will be reducing the numbers of customers in a branch at any one time and look to have some of our services such as account opening, outside the branch,” Fleming told The National.
“We do look for the co-operation of customers so that we can protect their health as well as the health of our staff.”
Commenting on the status of other regional operations, Fleming said BSP Group would ensure measures were in place to protect its staff and customers.
“Fiji has announced it first Covid-19 case which was in the city of Lautoka,” Fleming said.
“The government of Fiji responded promptly and instituted measures to restrict the movement of people in and out of Lautoka to minimise the prospect of transmission of Covid-19.
“As is the case in all countries, banking is an essential service and banks are required to continue their normal operations.
“Our Lautoka branch has remained open with staff being provided with masks and gloves depending on their role and contact with customers.
“Since the announcement, we have not experienced any issues other than high demand for cash.
“Samoa and Tonga have both announced a state of emergency, again to reduce the movement of people, restrict the gathering of people in large numbers including cancelation of sports and church events, as well as restrictions on the number of people in buses and vehicles.

PNGDF soldiers loading their bags at Jackson Airport after returning from Australia on Friday.

“Similar measures and protocols to those in Lautoka are being implemented and BSP’s branches continue to open in both Samoa and Tonga.
“In PNG, our staff in areas more exposed to travellers will have face masks and gloves as will staff who count cash.
“Reducing large gatherings of people as the minister has requested will require the support and assistance of our customers well.
“BSP recognises that banking is an essential industry and equally the health and safety of our staff is important so our staff can continue to come to work.”