Height of Manus waves cited in MP challenge

Member for Manus Ronny Knight has been granted leave by the National Court to review the decision of the leadership tribunal that recommended his dismissal from office.

Knight was found guilty to misappropriation charges on March 20, 2015 by the tribunal on four of the five allegations brought against him.

He was recommended on May 01, 2015 for dismissal from office by tribunal members led by chairman Judge Salatiel Lenalia and senior magistrates Ignatius Kurei and Rosie Johnston.

The Member for Manus was found guilty of misappropriating funds from the District Services Improvement Programs (DSIP) with the purchase of the Manus district vessel MV Trader Star and the engagement of a consultation firm, Pokarop and Morton Company Limited in its purchase.  

This morning (July 21) Knight’s lawyers from Jema Lawyers, Greg Egan (QC) and Noel Ako, went before Justice Les Gavara Nanu with the application for leave to review the decision of his dismissal.

Egan in his submissions said the ground for the review was that there were examples of misinterpretation of the basic facts of evidence by members of the tribunal.

He said one of the main facts that was misinterpreted by members of the tribunal was questions raised on the average height of waves in Manus waters.

Egan pointed out that no witnesses nor did evidence point out that the average wave height in Manus waters was above 20 metres thus making the vessel more unseaworthy. 

He however said the only evidence of height measurement of average waves in Manus waters came from the National Weather Office that stated 0.5 metre and up to 3 metres.

“But the chairman found the average wave height in Manus waters was at 20m. We don’t understand where the chairman found that evidence,” Egan said.

 The second example provided by Knight’s lawyers was that the tribunal misunderstood the evidence produced by one of the witnesses (William Pano) to find a clear case of misappropriation of public monies on the part of the leader.

Egan said in Pano’s affidavit, there was no evidence that Knight made a request of K23 million to the Prime Minister for the upgrading of the old vessel MV Manus nor did he request funding for the purchase of MV Trader Star.

He said the only evidence the tribunal had was a resolution of the Joint District Planning Budget Priorities Committee (JDPBPC) to purchase the vessel MV Trader Star at K2.5 million.

Tauvasa Tanuvasa from the Solicitors General Office who represented the State opposed the leave for review, saying the grounds of appeal should demonstrate it is an arguable case and not the evidence that was provided before the court.

He said a reproduction of findings is not a ground for review and the ground on the misinterpretation of evidence is not a proper ground.

Justice Gavara-Nanu found otherwise saying Knight’s application for leave was fully argued and satisfied.

He said the plaintiff did demonstrate that there were serious issued to be tried and that all remedies were exhausted.

He found the case was arguable, granting leave for Knight to review the decision of the tribunal.

The substantive matter (review) will return to court for directions hearing on August 10.

Meanwhile the stay order granted by Acting Judge Leka Nabu stopping Knight’s dismissal from office on May 22 is also further extended.

Sally Pokiton