Decision on Pruaitch’s appeal pending in Supreme Court

A decision on an appeal by Aitape Lumi MP Patrick Pruaitch remains pending in the Supreme Court, almost 10 months on since it was heard by a three-judge Supreme Court bench.

The appeal challenges a decision of the National Court from Dec 2014 after the lower court rejected a motion Pruaitch was seeking. He was seeking the disclosure of investigation documents that was obtained by the Ombudsman Commission from the National Forest Authority.

The pending decision of the Supreme Court came before the attention of the Waigani National Court on Monday when civil matter came for call over before Justice Hitelai Polume-Kiele.

Pruaitch’s lawyer from Young and Williams told the court the case is pending the decision of the Supreme Court after parties presented arguments on Dec 15, 2015.

Justice Polume-Kiele adjourned the National Court matter generally to the registry, pending the outcome of that Supreme Court appeal.

Justices George Manuhu, Jacinta Murray and Frazer Pitpit, on Dec 15, 2015, heard the appeal filed by Pruaitch against the decision of Justice Stephen Kassman from December 2014. This was on grounds the judge failed to adequately give reasons when he rejected a motion he filed seeking certain orders.

His lawyer told the court on Dec 15, 2015 that the documents sought in that motion that was rejected last year was obtained from the National Forest Authority through a summons after the leader had responded to allegations of misconduct in office to the Ombudsman Commission.

Pruaitch’s lawyers argued before the Supreme Court that he was not given the opportunity to respond before his referral to the Ombudsman Commission in 2008.

He was made known of the allegations in 2006 where he responded to however, did not hear from the Ombudsman Commission until his referral in 2008.

Counsel for the Ombudsman Micheal Efi told the court last December that Justice Kassman did not err in law in his decision.

This case in the National Court that was filed by Pruaitch listed Chronox Manek, John Nero and Phoebe Sangetari, from the Ombudsman Commission, as the first respondents.

Jim Wala Tamate and the Public Prosecutor are the second respondents; members of the tribunal are the third respondents while the State is the fourth.

Pruiatch was referred to the tribunal in 2008 over allegations of misconduct in office following investigations by the OC.

The allegations included double-dipping into support vehicle allowances, double-dipping into operational cost allowances for support vehicles, improper receipts of public funds for fuel costs for private vehicles, double-dipping into entertainment allowances and misappropriation of 2003 district support grants.

A tribunal was appointed which consisted of Justice Sir Gibbs Salika (now Deputy Chief Justice), Senior Magistrate Peter Toliken (now Justice Toliken) & Nerrie Eliakim (now Chief Magistrate) back in 2008.

That tribunal has been stayed pending numerous appeals. 

(Loop file picture.)

Sally Pokiton