Supreme Court rebukes PM

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The National – Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SIR Michael Somare has been castigated by the Supreme Court and cited for “preventing a necessary and proper legal process from taking its proper course”.
He has been accused of applying delaying tactics in his prolonged legal battle against the Ombudsman Commission which go against good public administration and good governance.
In a landmark decision last Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed all matters brought before it by Sir Michael.
In the process, the court made findings that clarified confusions surrounding the question of exactly when a leader ought to be suspended from office.
The Supreme Court decision by Deputy Chief Justice Gibbs Salika and justices Nicholas Kirriwom and Ambeng Kandakasi had restored the time of suspension of a leader back to the moment when the public prosecutor makes a decision to refer a leader to a leadership tribunal.
“For avoidance of any doubt, we reiterate that suspension is triggered or takes effect from the moment a decision  is made to refer a leader to a leadership tribunal by the public prosecutor …” the court ruled.
This now meant that Public Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare and Treasurer
and Finance Minister Patrick Pruaitch are automatically suspended as both had been referred to separate leadership tribunals.
Somare appeared before his tribunal yesterday and his suspension was confirmed by his own counsel. An earlier decision in Pruaitch’s case, relating to tendering of certain documents before the tribunal before suspension is effected, was found to be “bad law”.
Suspension is not automatic only in the case of the referral of the prime minister, the chief justice and the public prosecutor.
All others, without exception, are covered by section 27(2) of the Leadership Code which states that leaders are suspended when the public prosecutor decides to refer them to a leadership tribunal.
While facing the leadership tribunal, Sir Michael decided to file certain proceedings in court raising questions of interpretation and application of the constitution mainly to review processes brought against him by the Ombudsman Commission and the public prosecutor.
Having made its decision, the court said: “The various steps Sir Michael took, through his legal counsel or advisers, were nothing short of an attempt at preventing a process ordained by law taking its proper course.”
The court ruled that through the unnecessary delay tactics, Sir Michael denied himself justice and quicker options and reliefs under normal process.
“The process, albeit with much delay, has now been concluded with no direct challenge against its conclusion by Sir Michael.
“These proceedings, therefore, have no utility and have been a total waste of the court’s time.”
Costs were awarded against the PM.