High court allows candidate to contest

A candidate contesting the Kerowagi Open Seat, who was declared bankrupt by the National Court early this month, will be allowed to contest pending his appeal in the Supreme Court.

Bari Palma is a candidate vying the Kerowagi Open Seat this election. He was declared insolvent, or bankrupt, by the Waigani National Court on June 1.

Justice Derek Hartshorn declared him bankrupt after he failed to pay over K275,000 in legal cost from an Election Petition he had filed in 2013. This case is the first of such in the country.

On Nov 13, 2013, the National Court dismissed Palma’s election petition, ordering him to pay K275,119.06.

Aggrieved with the amount, he filed a judicial review in the National Court in February last year.

But while that review case was pending before Justice Colin Makail, current sitting MP Camilus Dangma instituted an insolvency proceeding under the Insolvency Act before Justice Hartshon on July 6 last year to enforce the taxed costs.

A trial was conducted on May 31 and Justice Hartshorn, on June 1, declared Palma bankrupt for failing to pay his debt. 

He filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. The court stayed his status, pending the outcome of his appeal and ordered the PNG Electoral Commission to allow him to contest the election.

In the interest of justice, Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia stayed Palma’s status but said all was not lost for the respondent and current sitting MP, Dangma

He said if Palma wins the election, other candidates aggrieved by his win are entitled to challenge that through an election petition.

Sally Pokiton