Wenge questions status of sidelined governors

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MOROBE Governor Luther Wenge yesterday raised concerns in Parliament regarding the legitimacy of regional MPs who continue to perform the functions of governor despite being sidelined by the courts, and sought a legal opinion on the matter.
“I ask Job Pomat, Minister for Inter-Government Relations, to get his department to provide a legal opinion on the position of governor,” he said.
Mr Wenge told Parliament that the position of Regional Member or Open Member stemmed from a victory in the national elections.
“It emanates from that victory, so if the National Court annuls that victory where do you stand? You have nothing to stand on,” he argued.
He was referring to Western Highlands Governor Tom Olga and Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet, who remain in office performing the functions of governor, despite being ousted as Regional Members by Courts of Disputed Returns.
Sir Arnold’s election as Regional Member for Madang was quashed by the Court of Disputed Returns in September last year and fresh elections were called for.
Sir Arnold appealed and the proceedings are still afoot.
Sir Arnold continues to hold the office of the governor, carrying out all duties and responsibilities required of a governor, except representation in Parliament.
The same privilege is enjoyed by Western Highlands Governor Tom Olga, whose election was also quashed and he is moving through a similar appeal process.
“With due respect, you are no longer a Regional Member or you are no longer a governor or an Open MP.
“You are nothing, if the court has made a decision,” Mr Wenge said.
“I am confused and I am uncomfortable regarding them as governor, so I kindly request a legal opinion be presented in Parliament,” he added.
He said that if there was a complication, then the matter should be brought before the Supreme Court for interpretation.
Mr Pomat replied that there were laws relating to this and noted that the governor’s position could be filled by a Regional Member, an Open Member or if not, someone from the provincial assembly.
“The court can rule and the governors can be dismissed as a Regional Member but section 14 of the Organic Law says the incumbent can still hold the governor’s post until a replacement is found,” he explained.
However, Mr Pomat agreed that the particular section needed to be reviewed and confirmed that work was already being undertaken to peruse this section further.