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Australia urges restraint after chief justice charged

Chief Justice Injia arrested in new political crisis

BY JAMES GRUBEL
REUTERS

Police wait outside the National CourtPOLICE 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.

Sir Salamo InjiaIn a brief statement, he told reporters he would not be forced out of his job. "I've done nothing wrong. I will not resign," he said.

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

Comments

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Harry Topham

The word contempt has been bandied around in gay abandon and in recent events unfolding in PNG appears to relate to loss of pride not criminal matters as insinuated by the politicians.

As past records show, the real guilty parties in these matters are the majority of politicians whose only accomplishments have been those concerned with greed, self-aggrandisement, apathy, negligence and downright incompetence.

If there is to be any justice then such types of miscreants should be charged with the greater and more serious charges relating to their obvious contempt for welfare of their fellow citizens.

Phil Fitzpatrick

With all due respect, the people responsible for the recent and current fiasco in Papua New Guinean politics, some more so than others, are, in order, Michael Somare, Julius Chan, Paias Wingti, Rabbie Namaliu, Bill Skate, Mekere Morauta and Michael Somare again.

They are the people who were in charge and, as such, bear responsibility and blame. If those gentlemen had done their jobs well Papua New Guinea would now be a stable, equitable and happy nation simply cruising along and enjoying its natural wealth.

Whether you include Peter O'Neill in this group depends on the truth of his expressed reason for toppling Michael Somare - that the latter's reign had brought Papua New Guinea to the point of disaster.

In the meantime the last 9 months have been very entertaining (thank you Peter, Michael, Belden et al) and have completely destroyed how the seriousness of actions (ho hum) like those occurring in the last few days are regarded by just about everyone except the politicians.

For such a long running gag isn't it now time for the punchline?

Feareka Haha

This unprecedented move by the puported deputy prime minister is ludicrous. This arrogant, and power hungry human being has single handedly brought democracy to its knees.

A heinous precedent has been set, whereby the the blind loyalty to money and power have usurped the rule of law. It is shameful that "national" leaders such as Messrs Namah and O'Neill can conduct themselves this way, the purported PM is very quiet about the whole matter isn't he?

He's let his right hand man run the show and go all guns blazing. This is just wrong. The country's democratic foundations have been shattered and we are now, as Sir Arnold put it, under a dictatorial regime. This has no place in PNG.

The armed forces and public service have no place picking sides, their loyalty must be to the legitimate, constitutonal government of the day, and that government belongs to the Grand Chief.

There are so many arguments why Sir Michael should not reassume his legitimate post, however the fundamental issue of legitimacy has been resolved not once, but twice by the sole arm of government that is entrusted to interpret the constitution - the Supreme Court.

The childlike and knee-jerk reactions and nuances of the illegal DPM are not altogether unexpected, as he has never once shown any leadership and character traits that befit a national leader.

It just does not make sense that they can submit to the jurisdiction of the courts, asking them to interpret the constitution then when the decision does not go their way, they charge the presiding judges with treason!

It's almost comical in its entirety! If the allegations of bias were concerning before the s19 reference was filed, why then was there not a challenge and submission to the courts?

As I understand, there were submission in this regard, and the matter was ruled upon, based on sound legal and evidentiary principles.

If there was any further concerns, then legal counsel for the government should have appealed! Why are they crying over bias allegations that they themselves have not bothered to pursue!

I will reserve my disgust at Ms Twivvey and her cohort of constitutional terrorists at a later date, suffice to say her interpretations of our constitution are warped and nonsensical. But I digress.

This is not to say that I am not deeply concerned, and to many everyday PNG'eans, it really does not matter what the courts decision is, as the majority of the country are gearing up to go to the polls, however, in terms of the preservation of the rule of law and the setting of precedents, this is a critical time for the country, and the foundations upon which our system is built upon must be fought for.

At the end of the day, we the people will have our say as to who we think best represents our interests, and I fear that money and power will again dictate the outcome.

This being said, when all is said and done, the rule of law must be upheld and those responsible for this political mess should be brought to account.

Mr Namah, Mr O'Neill, the heads of police and defence forces should be held to account before the courts to answer charges of contempt.

They have violated so many sacrosanct laws and protocol functions that have our system of government together since independence.

At this critical time, it is also imperative on our closest neighbours, Australia and New Zealand to condemn the actions of this illegal regime.

This is no time to sit back and play the "softly, softly" card and call for restraint. These men have gone past the point where reason and restraint are an option. international pressure must be applied. Australia's continuing recognition of this illegal regime is embarrassing.

In saying and expressing an opinion on matters, there are always going to be differing opinions, one would hope that better sense has prevailed and the nation can go to the polls in peace.

However,we cannot forget the events of the last 9 months and those responsible must be held to account. Our nation's future is at stake.

Bob Tombe

Politicians always use the word "power hungry" to label other politicians or people who use force, or the law, to get what they want.

In the present political crisis it looks like the young politicians are more power hungy than the old. But my advice is for both parties to leave the PM position vacant and go to the elections.

The GG should be the caretaker government during the short election period.

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