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11 April 2016

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If found guilty he must be sent to jail to make an example out of him.

Bomana awaits!

Chris, well spoken but bloody alarming in the extreme. Greed and avarice continue to rear their ugly heads in PNG. My heart bleeds for the populace.

This case has the gravest possible implications for democracy in PNG, far exceeding the political and legal machinations surrounding, for example, the rise of Peter O'Neill as Prime Minister or even the infamous Sandline Affair.

To be a viable democracy PNG or, in fact, any country, must be governed according to what is called the doctrine of the separation of powers.

This doctrine divides the institutions of government into three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. The legislature makes the laws; the executive put the laws into operation; and the judiciary interprets the laws.

Like Australia and its constituent states, PNG has a Parliament that is supposed to operate according to this doctrine.

It is already the case that the line between the legislative and executive functions has become blurred owing to the fact that the party that controls the legislature (Parliament) invariably carries out the functions of the executive arm of government.

However, in the case of bicameral Parliaments like Australia's, there exist two separate legislative bodies. These take the form of a House of Lords in the UK or a Senate in the USA and Australia, which the executive arm frequently cannot control.

This can lead to serious obstruction to the functions of government at times but, generally speaking, works to reduce the risk of ill thought out or simply bad legislation being passed

Regrettably, Australia and PNG's founding fathers decided to give PNG a unicameral Parliament, where there is only one legislative body. There is thus no effective brake upon PNGs' politicians if they decide to pass bad laws.

For this reason, the third branch, the judiciary, must serve as the last bastion of defence against unconstitutional and ill considered law making.

To allow it to do this, the judiciary enjoys complete independence from the other branches, with its members having basically unfettered discretion in how they interpret and apply the law.

Typically, the only way a Supreme Court or High Court Judge can be removed from office is through an Act of Parliament. I cannot recall this happening in my lifetime although some very few resignations have effectively been forced where judicial incompetence or misconduct has been proved.

The most senior judicial officers such as Supreme Court Justices enjoy enormous prestige and power. All around the world, their influence upon the governance of a country can be and often is very profound.

Appointments to the High Courts of Australia, Canada, the USA and the UK are scrutinised very closely indeed to ensure that only the very best legal minds are considered.

Bearing this in mind, the fact that Justice Sakora has been charged with misconduct is a very disturbing development. Even more disturbingly, his alleged misconduct pertains to cases of major political and constitutional significance.

If these allegations are proved, then it will be evidence that the rampant corruption within the PNG polity extends even into the ranks of the judiciary.

This would be a truly catastrophic development for PNG. The last bastion against the depredations of venal and corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen will have failed, leaving the country to the mercy of those who care nothing for the rule of law.

Such countries can swiftly collapse into a seething morass of competing groups for whom intimidation, theft, violence and murder are mere tools of trade. There are many hideous examples of this right now all around the world.

Papua New Guinea is truly at a cross roads: if it cannot rely upon the integrity of the judiciary who can it rely upon?

If it cannot maintain a viable democracy based upon the rule of law then what other form of government will arise?

I may well be characterised as alarmist and engaging in worst case thinking here, but I think this is exactly what is now necessary amongst all Papua New Guineans who care about their futures and those of their children.

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