The curious decisions of Justice Makail.

By PNG Echo

Justice Derek Hartshorn - one of the three Supreme Court Judges that overturned Justice Makail's decision today
Justice Derek Hartshorn – one of the three Supreme Court Judges that overturned Justice Makail’s decision today

When earlier today, a three-man bench of the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a National Court decision by Justice Colin Makail to join Police officers Gitua and Damaru to the judicial review of Chief Magistrate, Nerrie Eliakim’s decision to grant an arrest warrant against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, in their judgment they raised a very good question.

 

…that a police officer wishes to execute an arrest warrant against the wishes or orders of the Police Commissioner raises issues as to why that Police Officer is of that view and believes he has such a particular interest in executing the warrant that he seeks court enforcement, against the position taken by the Police Commissioner.

Why do these maverick police officers think they can go over the head of their boss and appeal directly to the courts? Could it have something to do with their success when Justice Makail is the sitting judge – buoying them: encouraging their rogue tendencies?

Well…in journalism, we consider once to be an isolated incident, two times a coincidence but have it happen three times, and that’s a trend.

There are four instances that I’d like to highlight – I’ve called them ‘The curious decisions of Justice Makail’. There may be more than four, I may have missed some – if I have feel free to point them out.

Supreme Court says – noooo.

Justices of the Supreme and National Courts
Justices of the Supreme and National Courts

We’ve already looked briefly at yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that found that Justice Makail was wrong and had fallen into error when finding for Damaru and Gitua. His judgment was quashed.

And it’s not the first time lately, is it?

Back in July, the Supreme Court also set aside Makail’s decision in the National Court that dismissed Attorney General Ano Pala’s petition.  Makail said Pala had no standing to bring proceedings challenging the validity of an arrest warrant until after he was arrested.

Justice Makail, that’s ridiculous!

There would be no point in trying to stop the arrest if it had already happened, now would there? That’s shouldn’t be too hard for a Justice of the PNG courts to understand, should it?

Luckily, the Supreme Court judges did not have the same conceptual deficit and quashed the arrest also commenting that:

None of the grounds for considering the arrest referred to…could reasonably have been believed to justify the arrest of the applicant.

The police officer who had had the arrest warrant sworn out was ….drum roll…wait for it…Matthew Damaru.

Is Justice Makail so mesmerised by Damaru that he cannot see what other Judges clearly can?

Seems the Supreme Court doesn’t think much of his judgments and I must say I find them …well…curious too.

A trip down memory lane – two more (but who’s counting?)

Sam Koim - playing for time?
Sam Koim – playing for time?

Cast your minds back to March to the time after Sam Koim took out a full-page advertisement in the newspaper allegedly in contempt of a court order stopping him talking to the press.

In the National Court, when this and Koim’s substantive case concerning the status of Task Force Sweep was up for mention, Justice Makail, on adjourning both, decided that the substantive case should be heard first.

What the…?

Justice Makail seems to have a lot of trouble with sequencing. He’s put the cart before the horse again.

If the contempt is found to be proven and egregious enough then it could (and some would argue ‘should’) have the case thrown out. You don’t need to know the law – you just need to be blessed with a modicum of common sense.

Justice Makail, has done Koim a huge favour, removing one of the obstacles to his case. In the meantime He’s made himself look ridiculous (there’s that word again)– but that doesn’t seem to worry the good Judge as he errs in ways that a layperson who watches “Law and Order’ regularly  wouldn’t.

And it’s for the same faction he subsequently favoured in his error-ridden judgments – in this case Damaru and Gitua’s little mate, Sam Koim.

And ironically, while Makail has no sympathy for the physical harm done to Lawyer Tiffany Twivey, back in April, after being manhandled and held in appalling conditions by policemen acting on behalf of Damaru and Gitua – before she was charged, for Sam Koim’s lack of preparedness he has all the patience in the world.

Even armed with a doctor’s certificate detailing the injuries Twivey had received, Justice Makail, would not entertain her request for a week’s adjournment and gave her just a day saying that the case was of national importance and needed to go ahead. (It was the substantive case of Task Force Sweep).

That it clashed with her appearance in court with her own case was not just serendipity – although it was that too – it was just too convenient for Koim to think could be anything but contrived.  With the action of his mates, Damaru and Gitua, Koim avoided the witness stand – and continues to do so.

Ironically, at the same time, Justice Makail agreed to adjourn the case on the request of Sam Koim because Koim was not prepared.

NOT PREPARED?

This is possibly the most important case of his life – and he wasn’t prepared?  How much time does he need?

Half a year, apparently.

Since that day, Justice Makail has entertained Koim’s requests for adjournments another three times that I’ve counted. – with Koim still making all sorts of specious excuses about why he’s not prepared – most involving his representation and Justice Makail buying them all and indulging him.

The case is currently listed for a ‘status hearing’ on 5 October. Why? Why isn’t the case just going to trial?

Justice Makail agreed to give Twivey one day’s adjournment but has given Koim 6 months. Does that sound balanced to you?

Makes you wonder what Koim is playing at and why Makail is facilitating it, doesn’t it?

Playing for time

Sam Koim leaves the Waigani court - with his illegal counsel
Sam Koim leaves the Waigani court – with his illegal counsel

The truth of the matter is that the substantive case was ready to be heard back in April. All the affidavits have been filed – the evidence has been collected and distributed – all neatly in ring binders.

Koim’s been dragging out this case. Why?

October 20th is the date when all public servants contesting the election have to resign, isn’t it?  Hands up who thinks Koim will throw his hat in the ring? All of you? Oh, OK.

It’s not long until then, is it?

Supposing Koim can hold off this case until then, he can resign from his position (a bit of a joke, under the circumstances -but stay with me here) – he then tells the court that, not being the Chairman of Task Force Sweep, he doesn’t have any standing in the case anymore. He withdraws and the case collapses.

What a great outcome for Koim that would be!

Because, there is nothing surer than Koim will not step down from the witness stand smelling of roses if Twivey can get him in there to be cross-examined.  Makail is thwarting that by granting all the adjournments.

I think Koim has an urgent need to avoid that witness stand, at any cost.   I mean, if he’s going to stand for election, that’s not what he wants his constituents to remember – the day, with his hand on the Bible, that he was forced to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help him, God. The day his halo may have slipped and be choking him.

Mind you, with Makail hearing the case, I doubt that Koim would lose, precedents suggest that – but that’s OK, his judgment is likely to be overturned on appeal (those precedents again)

Now, I may be completely barking up the wrong tree, but just in case, and, as you’ve said, Justice Makail, this is a case of National importance, so be as punitive with Koim as you were with Twivey. Give him a day. Start hearing the substantive matter on October 6.

Waddyasay, hey?

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More Fraud Squad cases unravel

By PNG Echo

What do Attorney General, Ano Pala, Aloysius Hamou and Francis Potape have in common?

Hon Francis Potape - the latest case to be overturned through the illegal activities of the Fraud Squad
Hon Francis Potape – the latest case to be overturned through the Fraud Squad’s illegal collection of evidence.

Well, while the recent circus that was the Vote of No Confidence was keeping the whole nation entertained and distracted, in the nation’s courts, the three, abovementioned, gentlemen’s criminal charges were being overturned, quashed, and disallowed.

All three were cases being prosecuted on behalf of the Fraud Squad – featuring Messrs Gitua and Damaru.

These cases have been variously found to be incompetent, ill–conceived, or both as indeed was the case against Justice Sakora – thrown out too.

Lawyer Tiffany Twivey - case still to be heard
Lawyer Tiffany Twivey – case still to be heard

Other Fraud Squad cases still to be decided are that of lawyer Tiffany Twivey, John Mangos of PNG Power and the Prime Minister himself.

Given the precedents of Fraud Squad incompetence and overconfidence in their ability to influence the courts, that these cases should go the same way is more than likely (except if Justice Colin Makail is hearing them, that is)

The Fraud Squad are not conducting legitimate investigations into corruption but overseeing a witch-hunt.

It’s politically strategic

Messrs Damaru and Gitua of the Fraud Squad.
Messrs Damaru and Gitua of the Fraud Squad.

These rogue elements in the police force are aiding and abetting those with a political agenda to effect that agenda, illegitimately, through the courts and these three recent cases illustrate that all too well. See the details here

It’s the premise that those charged with an offence occupying high office should step down that excites the Fraud Squad and their political sponsors and urges them on to more spurious arrests.

Enough arrest warrants and they could empty the parliament and remove all the judges that they are finding unco-operative. (Was Sakora’s arrest meant as a warning to the others?)

Attorney General Ano Pala arrest warrant quashed- his actions were incapable of being criminal
Attorney General Ano Pala arrest warrant quashed- his actions were incapable of being criminal

Indeed, had the Attorney General stepped down on his arrest warrant being effected his electorate would have been without a member for the last two years and the national parliament would have been deprived of his services. And all for specious charges that held no water (as was found in the judgment).

But it is the ‘step down’ demand on the Prime Minister, in particular, that has culminated in the opposition seeking the court’s aid to force a Vote of No Confidence in the parliament – a vote that proved to have no chance of getting up – and the Supreme Court complied.

There is considerable debate in PNG as to whether the Supreme Court overstepped their jurisdiction and breached the separation of powers.  More money will no doubt be expended on finding the answer to that.

That is, more money than the compensation likely to be claimed by all of those who were burned by the Fraud Squad’s incompetence and misguided zealotry.

These men of the Fraud Squad may be presenting themselves as God’s police; occupying a moral high ground that they have personally defined, but in actuality they are nothing short of loose cannons and dangerous vigilantes.

Kerenga Kua, a prominent opposition member
Kerenga Kua, a prominent opposition member

The political opposition is looking to the nation’s courts to effect a political solution that they are incapable of effecting in legitimate, political ways.

God help us all, if the courts co-operate any further – and yet, the three decisions this week give me hope that the law will triumph over vested interests.

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Political shenanigans in PNG: Could the Chief Justice be involved?

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?

Paul Paraka, ignored in favour of the Prime Minister.
Paul Paraka, ignored in favour of the Prime Minister.

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,”

Twivey stated.

Lawyer Tiffany Twivey
Lawyer Tiffany Twivey

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.

Judicial decisions

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.

Sam Koim - who is funding him?
Sam Koim – who is funding him?

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.

COP Gary Baki - the courts making his job maintaining discipline tough
COP Gary Baki – the courts making his job maintaining discipline tough

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.

Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia - the judiciary's fearsome leader
Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia – the judiciary’s fearsome leader

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.

Belden Namah - as he stormed the Supreme Court with his 'storm troopers' to arrest the Chief Justice, mid session
Belden Namah – as he stormed the Supreme Court with his ‘storm troopers’ to arrest the Chief Justice, mid session

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?

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