By PNG Echo.
Veteran former ABC Journalist and Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, has called the recent spate of political and judicial wranglings in Papua New Guinea “stranger than fiction,” but are they really?
It’s about power: wars have been fought for it, sons have killed fathers for it and innocent people have become a victim to it. And while the quest for power is rarely altruistic, hypocritical usurpers often invoke altruism to justify their lust for it.
And so it happens in Papua New Guinea where the desperate, wanting the head of the Prime Minister, say they’re fighting corruption. But how can that be when they ignore the main perpetrator, Paul Paraka, in favour of a dubious political target whose downfall would be beneficial to their goal of taking over government?
So who are they?
We don’t know for sure and it seems that they want to keep it that way – in fact lawyer Tiffany Twivey is of the opinion that her arrest was to prevent her from cross examining Sam Koim, on the witness stand as to the source of his funding.
It’s not lost on me [that] I was arrested the day before this final attempt to try and get the truth out there,”
Certainly the public faces of the unholy crusade are Sam Koim, and Fraud Squad officers Matthew Damaru and Timothy Gitua, but they can’t be acting on their own – they couldn’t afford to be, neither in monetary nor career terms.
Anywhere else or in any normal situation that would be sedition,
said Tiffany Twivey of their maverick arrest spree carried out in secret without the knowledge of their boss.
But not so in Papua New Guinea where actions that would be seditious in less unruly contexts are backed by judicial decisions that are often “stranger than fiction.”
For while the political support for the action of the rogue police is self-serving, hypocritical, mal-intended, it is expected – politics is like that.
(I believe that MP Kerenga Kua, sacked attorney-general and Sir Michael Somare’s former lawyer has coughed to the funding in an interview recorded by the ABC correspondent in Port Moresby and about to be aired on Australia’s 7.30 report – if it hasn’t been already.)
But nevertheless, and in spite of the separation of powers, none of this could have happened without the support of certain members of the judiciary whose rulings have oftentimes bordered on the bizarre tacitly condoning the anarchical actions of the rogue police while ensuring they remained answerable to no one.
Lately, one can almost predict the outcome of a legal case in matters involving the Prime Minister just by which judge the case will be before.
Justice Colin Makail has made some rulings that defy logic – deciding to hear a case, for instance, out of logical sequence rendering the second case potentially inconsequential, when it shouldn’t be.
It’s in the matter relating to Task Force Sweep where he decided to hear the substantive case without first hearing the charges of contempt and subjudice contempt against Koim. If Koim is found guilty of such contempt his case could (and arguably should) be thrown out – but it can’t be if it’s already been heard.
And as far as things subjudice are concerned, Justice Makail has recently queried something that COP Gary Baki published and has asked for submissions on whether it is subjudice. However, when Sam Koim published a paid full-page article on the case in the newspapers, not a single judicial eyebrow was raised – and this is in spite of the fact that it was not only subjudice contempt that could be alleged but also Koim was defying a court directive preventing such a breach.
Then there’s Justice Kirriwom who referred lawyers acting for the Prime Minister and Police Commissioner to their statutory body on a wrong premise.
Then again, Justice David Allen arguably (and I’m sure the lawyers are preparing to argue this in court) overstepped his jurisdiction by interfering in police administrative matters. His ruling directly contributed to the potentially dangerous situation where, in an attempt to bring his men into line, the Commissioner of Police had to use some of his men against others of them – something he should be never forced to do.
So why do certain elements of the judiciary appear to be politically compromised? Is the Chief Justice implicated?
The Chief Justice
This is a question for which I do not have the definitive answer – but there are things I do know, things told to me, usually in confidence, but always told with believable conviction and with a proviso that their name not be mentioned – one doesn’t cross the Chief Justice (CJ), apparently.
You see, the CJ, ideally considered to be ‘first amongst equals’, is so much more in PNG. Indeed the name of the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, is whispered in awe and trepidation in PNG legal circles, I’m told.
“My Lord and Master,” is how one Judge facetiously described the Chief Justice – and while there was certainly an element of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm with that remark, I’ve no doubt that were the CJ to say “jump” the response would be “how high.”
What’s more, the CJ has considerable influence within the Judicial Legal Services Commission (JLSC), which is the body that appoints judges. Although a five-member team makes the appointments, it is said that the CJ dominates.
It was a surprise to most when the late Justice Mark Sevua was not reappointed to the bench. Indeed, I have heard lawyers who’ve appeared before the learned judge wax lyrical about the privilege. However, he had not kept on the good side of the CJ whose dislike for Sevua was manifest when he failed to attend his funeral but left it to the Deputy Chief Justice instead.
The cognoscenti are also aware that there is no love lost between recently-arrested judge Sir Bernard Sakora and Sir Salamo either, (although there is no evidence that connects the CJ with his arrest – just a sneaking suspicion, based on recent bizarre judicial decisions).
So, it is in the best interests of a judge coming up for re-appointment – or indeed any other time – to keep on the good side of this powerful man. I’ve been told by those same cognoscenti that the CJ neither forgives nor forgets.
If that be true, then he would have a considerable grudge against this government over the impasse.
And understandably so – I still cringe when I see the footage of Namah storming into the court yelling: “Arrest him.” How ignominious to the office of the Chief Justice and the Chief Justice himself to have to cower behind the locked door of his chamber against this crass onslaught.
One has to wonder whether this crosses Sir Salamo’s mind when involved political identities come within his jurisdiction – before his courts? Revenge is a powerful emotion.
Because under the current system, it is the CJ who decides which judges sit on appeals in the Supreme Court – a considerable power – I wonder on what criteria he makes his selection?
For Sir Salamo Injia is a Chief Justice whose conscience and scruples allowed him to stop a legal case against himself and also to disregard the Supreme Court Act to deliver judgment in the second case between Prime Minister O’Neill and Sir Michael Somare after two of the judges of the five-judge bench left – it’s an ominous precedent on how Sir Salamo is prepared to wield his power.
Has he been doing that here – or am I adding 2+2 and coming up with five?