Funding for Sharp trial made available

A National Court trial against Rabaul Shipping owner, Peter Sharp and captain of the MV Rabaul Queen, Anthony Matasir Tsiau will continue next year after funding was allocated by the Finance department.

The trial into the country’s worst maritime disaster which saw more than 172 people perish in the ferry disaster on Feb 2, 2012, started in April but ran into funding problems in August resulting in a number adjournment.

The matter returned before Presiding judge, Terrence Higgins on Wednesday this week where an update on funding was given and the matter adjourned to Feb 2017 for mention before a date for the continuation of the trial can be fixed.

Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan through an affidavit and Secretary of the Justice and Attorney General, Dr Lawrence Kalinoe gave an update to the court on funding availability.

Dr. Kalinoe appeared before Justice Higgins after summons were issued for him, Dr Ngangan, Treasury Secretary, Dairi Vele, and Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari on Nov 16 to explain the non-availability of funds for the trial to continue.

He confirmed the funding that was allocated for the office of the Public Prosecutor and the Police department in bringing in witnesses for the trial.

More than 100 witnesses from around the country have been into Kokopo for the trial since April.

With funding now made available, the office of the Public Prosecutor will be bringing in an Australian maritime expert, Martin Renilson for the trial. He is a key witness state is relying on.

Witnesses from the National Maritime Safety Authority have also been called in to give evidence against Sharp and Tsiau.

About 100 more witnesses will be called by the state, some of which will only see their affidavits tendered into court as evidence.

Owner of Rabaul Shipping, Sharp, and captain of the MV Rabaul Queen, Anthony Matasir Tsiau, are standing trial three years on since the country’s worst maritime disaster which saw the MV Rabaul Queen sink on February 2, 2012, off the coast of Finschhafen, Morobe Province.

They are standing trial on 88 counts of manslaughter and sending an unworthy ship to sea.

Initially at the District Court, Sharp and Tsiau were facing 172 counts of manslaughter, and sending an unworthy ship to sea, for the lives lost on the MV Rabaul Queen. The charges were amended when the trial commenced in Kokopo on April 11.

(Loop file picture of the Kokopo National Court.) 

Sally Pokiton