144 volumes in pilots’ appeal case

Lawyer for the eight pilots who are challenging their termination from Air Niugini in the Supreme Court has been given a two-week extension to fix appeal books.

This is before a hearing date can be set by the court.

Moses Murray, who is acting for the eight; Captains Joseph Kumasi, Boris Ageda, Vincent Tongia, Benjamin Lopa, Norman Daniel, and first officers Elijah Yuangi, David Seken and Abel Kanego asked the court for an extension on Monday to compile outstanding 108 volumes of the appeal books they will rely on in the case.

A total of 144 volumes will be compiled in the appeal books; that’s three volumes for each of the eight pilot’s case.  

The volumes of the appeal books were supposed to have been filed by April 28, however that was not done and Murray went to court asking for an extension, which was allowed.

He has been given until May 15 to compile the remaining 108 volumes before the case returns to court on May 17.

On March 23, the Supreme Court granted interim relief to the pilots, which stayed their termination as well as eviction from Air Niugini’s accommodation.

The orders were issued after Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia allowed or granted leave for their appeal to be heard by the full court.

He was of the view that they had an arguable case as serious errors were made when the National Court dismissed their judicial review case on Feb 7 this year.

Orders were also issued for parties to work towards an expedited hearing of the appeal against the judicial review dismissal.

The National Court on Feb 7 dismissed the review and ruled that Air Niugini is a company and the employment of the pilots and their termination was not reviewable because they are not public office holders, as there was no statute-making provision for their terms and conditions of employment, including their termination.

Trial judge Justice Collin Makail said the State may control Air Niugini but it was unclear how the State comes in when dealing with disciplinary processes and dismissal of employees.

Kumasi, Ageda, Tongia, Lopa and Daniel were employed under a contract of employment with Air Niugini Ltd while Yuangi, Seken and Kanego were employed as cadet pilots.

They were terminated by the Air Niugini management between Sept 1-15, 2016  over allegations of misconduct.

They were terminated because they did not turn up for work, which resulted in many flights being interrupted and many passengers stranded during a stop-work period.

Between July 13 and 20, 2016, Air Niugini experienced an increase in the number of national pilots reporting sick and unable to attend work after a stop-work took place, calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down from office. The stop work was not an industrial issue and began on 13 July, 2016.

The eight pilots were terminated for refusing to attend to the company’s approved doctor for a second medical opinion after they provided medical certificates for days they missed work on.

They were also terminated for failing to report for duty for reasons of security concern, and sharing Facebook posts that called for civilians not to go for work during the month of July. 

Loop PNG file picture

Sally Pokiton