By PNG Echo.
It’s official. Deputy Chief Justice, Sir Gibbs Salika, is the darling of PNGs social media (and the mainstream press seems equally impressed.)
Lately, to a wave of public approval, he’s handed down a guilty verdict on the cases of Governor Havilo Kavo – Gulf Province, Member of Parliament for Komo-Magarima, Francis Potape, Former Minister for National Planning and Pomio MP, Paul Tiensten, Commissioner of Police, Tom Kulunga and this week he hit the approval jackpot with his conviction of Jimmy Maladina over the NPF scandal 17 years ago.
An excited headline article in the Post Courier proclaimed: ”
After a 17-year wait the final curtain is about to fall on the National Provident Fund (NPF) saga when its central player – Jimmy Maladina – was found guilty of misappropriating K2.65 million by the Waigani National Court yesterday.
The blogosphere was equally as excited with one commentator saying:
At last justice has been served.
Ah yes, but has it – or has just the need for retribution been slaked?
PNG loves retributive justice – it’s akin to the tradition of ‘payback’ so beloved of the culture – although this style of justice does little fix what ails PNG (but that’s a subject for another time).
With the judiciary coming in for some severe criticism lately in the press, Sir Gibbs has remained unscathed, buffered by the general popularity of the aforementioned decisions.
DCJ Salika’s record
I was first introduced to the now Deputy Chief Justice through the discredited (both legally and factually) Defence Force Inquiry that he chaired. It was the first pointer to the fact that the good judge is not infallible.
Furthermore, curiously, on December 23 last year, DCJ Salika gave an ex parte judgment for Napanapa landowners against the state for K117 million to be paid by the state within 14 days of the judgment. The time limit for the state to file a defence had not even lapsed. The state had until March to file their defence. That was generous of him, wasn’t it?
The lawyers for the state had no trouble getting the judgment set aside on around 6 grounds.
So did the learned Judge also err in the case of Maladina? There are those that think so.
Where’s the evidence?
There was no real evidence presented, neither direct nor circumstantial.
Maladina’s lawyer, John Griffin QC according to a report in The National newspaper stated: “…the state did not show how the fraud was played out at NPF as nobody had testified on it.
Instead, the Judge relied heavily on the 12-year-old Commission of Inquiry Report – but court’s rules of evidence don’t apply in a Commission of Inquiry. The Commission’s evidence remains untested.
Furthermore, the missing Japanese employees of Kumagi Gumi can hardly be considered reliable when they gave their evidence to the Commission in exchange for immunity from their own prosecution.
Post Courier reported that of the two witnesses who gave testimony (there were supposed to be eight), one was Sir Brown Bai, the outgoing chairman of the NPF board of trustees prior to the appointment of Jimmy Maladina.
According to lawyer, Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr, quoting from the Commission of Inquiry report, the previous board, headed by David Copeland, lost the fund K200 million without anyone bothering to issue a “please explain?”
Are alarm bells ringing in your head? There’s a cacophony in mine. It’s a matter of ‘reasonable doubt’. There’s so much of it.
It is the principles associated with justice that will see justice prevail.
The hero worship of the latest ‘pin up’ boy who will do everyone’s bidding and slake the need for retribution has never worked before. Heroes are always flawed.
What’s more, the people of PNG are fickle – ask Sam Koim who has been both hailed as a saviour and as a traitor with equal venom by the same people according to his latest decision. Yes, DCJ Salika, one minute you are a rooster, the next a feather duster.
DCJ Salika is poised to take the top judicial role before too much longer, he is an important and learned man but he is not bigger than the principle, he is merely a player. Examine the principle.
For my money, Maladina’s case has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.