By PNG Echo
Rulings handed down today today by a full bench of the Supreme Court (Justices Hartshorn, Sawong and Makail) have dismissed an objection by Police Officers Gitua and Damaru to an appeal by Minister James Marape arising from a National Court decision and have, furthermore, reversed a ruling of single-sitting Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kirriwom, thus upholding the appeal of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Minister James Marape and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
In the first-mentioned matter, an appeal had been lodged against the National Court’s ruling that refused an application by government and police lawyers for interlocutory orders by consent, restraining police from arresting Minister Marape and the Prime Minister.
Messrs Gitua and Damaru were objecting to the competency of the appeal.
A full bench of the Supreme Court ruled:
In our view all of the objections of the objectors’ [Damaru and Gitua] do not question this court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal and do not go to the competency of the appeal but rather questions as to the merits of the appeal. Consequently the objection to competency should be dismissed.
In the second matter, the appeal was against Justice Kirriwom’s ruling that police officer’s Gitua and Damaru should be allowed to choose and engage their preferred counsel – in this case, Jema Lawyers and barrister Greg Egan.
The court determined that as police officers, Damaru and Gitua were required to obtain approval from the Attorney General to engage lawyers to act on their behalf in this proceeding and that Justice Kirriwom had erred in drawing the opposing conclusion.
An interim order restraining the police officers from engaging or instructing lawyers was granted and it was ordered that each party (both the Attorney General and the police officers) make the applications and appointments necessary for legal representation of Damaru and Gitua in this matter.
In both cases costs were awarded against Damaru and Gitua.