BY JAMES GRUBEL
POLICE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA stormed the Supreme Court in Port Moresby yesterday afternoon and arrested the nation's top judge on sedition charges in response to the Court’s ruling that the prime minister held power illegally and should step down.
On the day nominations closed for June elections, police arrested Chief Justice Salamo Injia after the Court ruled former leader Michael Somare should be reinstated as prime minister.
Somare and prime minister Peter O'Neill have been jostling for power since August 2011, when O'Neill took office after Somare was ruled ineligible to be a lawmaker after a prolonged absence from parliament due to illness.
But the Supreme Court in December ruled Somare should be reinstated, and in another ruling this week the court said Somare should be the caretaker prime minister during the current election period.
O'Neill and his deputy, Belden Namah, have refused to accept the court ruling, accusing the judges of bias and demanding they resign, extending a prolonged feud with the judiciary.
Namah led armed police who arrived at the court as Injia started hearing a case, forcing the judge to run to his secure chambers where he remained holed up for several hours.
Injia was charged with sedition late on Thursday, and was released on bail. He was due to appear in court on Friday.
The dramatic development comes after months of political uncertainty in PNG.
O'Neill, who has the support of the majority of PNG's politicians, has attempted to recall parliament to deal with the latest court finding, but he has failed to muster a quorum three days in a row. Most lawmakers are in their electorates campaigning for the elections.
Somare, meanwhile, has written to PNG's media, warning they could be held in contempt if they do not recognize him as the legitimate prime minister.
Somare has also twice attempted to visit the country's governor-general to be sworn in as caretaker prime minister, in line with the Supreme Court rulings, but the titular head of state has refused to intervene.
This morning’s newspaper headlines in Australia:
Papua New Guinea Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia held for sedition - Herald-Sun (Melbourne)
PNG top judge charged and will face court - Sydney Morning Herald
Carr tries to dial down PNG drama - Courier-Mail (Brisbane)
Gillard urges restraint in PNG - Business Spectator
Australia urges restraint as PNG judge arrested - Yahoo 7 News
PNG to charge judges with sedition - The Australian
PNG top judge charged and will face court - Brisbane Times
Deputy PM Namah leads security operation to 'arrest' Chief Justice - PNG Perspective