Judge requested to formalise referral on UBS loan case

The judge who referred constitutional questions to the Supreme Court over the alleged improper borrowing of the K3 billion UBS loan by the government has been requested to formalise the referral.

The judge was requested to provide a statement of facts with the questions referred to the Supreme Court before the formal process begins for the reference.

The K3 billion UBS loan reference is before the high court under section 18(2) of the Constitution.  

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia today issued directions requesting Justice Catherine Davani to formalise the process, after the referral was made by the National Court On Jan 28, 2015.  

He said from search done on court records, the referral judge did not complete the formalities and also sign off the reference when the referral was done.

The National Court then allowed the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, to obtain a reference under section 18(2) of the constitution for interpretation at the Supreme Court while the National Court proceeding was stayed, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court reference, a matter still before the high court.

This is all in relation to the alleged improper borrowing of K3 billion loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland AG by the government to purchase 149, 390, 244 shares in Oil Search Limited, and improper tender and procurement of consultants in relation to the borrowing.

The National Court last year also allowed Prime Minister O’Neill certain orders restraining the Ombudsman Commission from publishing a preliminary report of the alleged improper borrowing.

In a 36-page ruling, the National Court issued an interim injunction on Jan 28 last year, restraining the Ombudsman Commission, Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua and Ombudsman Phoebe Sangetari, from:

  • Investigating any conduct on the part of the Prime Minister under section 219(1)(a) of the constitution and section 13 of the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission;
  • Publishing in any form the result of any investigation carried out by the Ombudsman Commission, whether by forwarding a copy of its conclusion, recommendation and suggestions to the person holding the position described in section 23 (1) of the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission;
  • Publishing any form the Provisional Report of December 2014 signed by Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua and Ombudsman Phoebe Sangetari; and
  • Publishing in any form any amended Provisional report or final report.

A total of 11 questions were referred to the Supreme Court last year for further determination.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman Commission, former Chief Ombudsman Rigo Lua, Acting Chief Ombudsman Sangetari and Prime Minister O’Neill, were all granted leave of the court today to be joined as interveners or be added as parties in the reference. 

Attorney-General Ano Pala will be served a copy of the reference by the Ombudsman lawyers.

The matter came for directions today after the Chief Justice dismissed an appeal by the Ombudsman Commission on Thursday, July 17. The Ombudsman however, is at liberty to file a Supreme Court review of the National Court’s decision of Jan 28, 2015.  

Sally Pokiton