Pilots’ lawyers prepare appeal books

Lawyers representing the eight pilots whose terminations were temporarily stayed by the Supreme Court through an appeal on March 23 are now in the process of fixing appeal books.

These appeal books must be fixed before a date can be set for the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.

Moses Murray, the lawyer representing  Captains Joseph Kumasi, Boris Ageda, Vincent Tongia, Benjamin Lopa, Norman Daniel, and first officers Elijah Yuangi, David Seken and Abel Kanego returned to court today for directions.

The Supreme Court gave Murray, Air Niugini and the State until April 28 to sort those relevant court documents before the case returns for further direction on May 1.

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

These 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.

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.

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


Loop PNG file picture of the pilots on Oct 7,2016.

Sally Pokiton