PM’s arrest warrant stayed

The Supreme Court has allowed orders restraining the arrest of Prime Minister Peter O’Neil until the court determines his appeal.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia granted the stay order this afternoon.

This means the arrest warrant that was issued by the Waigani District Court, on 12 June 2014, cannot be effected by police on the Prime Minister until the court determines the appeal.

PM O’Neill’s lawyers filed the appeal in the Supreme Court yesterday to challenge the decision of the National Court, which dismissed the judicial review former Police Commissioner Geoffrey Vaki filed in 2014.

This review was dismissed by Justice Collin Makail on Tuesday because he was of the view the warrant of arrest cannot be reviewed, adding civil cases cannot be used to stop criminal cases progressing. 

Sir Salamo, in allowing the restraining orders today, said an arguable case, based on alleged error by Justice Makail, was made out.

He was satisfied with the submissions made by Mal Varitimos, who represented the Prime Minister.

Varitimos told the court that two previous decisions relating to the same issue - arrest warrant, had already been decided on by the Supreme Court in relation to the same issue and the National court was bound to follow those two decisions.

One of those Supreme Court cases was a reference emanating from the same review that was dismissed on Tuesday.

Here constitutional questions were referred to the Supreme Court for interpretation if one can challenge an arrest warrant by way of judicial review. The five-judge Supreme Court bench then said one can challenge a warrant through a review.

The other Supreme Court case they relied on was the appeal by former Attorney General, Ano Pala, challenging the validity of the warrant that was used to arrest him, which led to the commencement of a criminal case in the District Court.

This case was the one which Pala was arrested for on Nov 2, 2015,  and charged with one count of defeating the course of justice, perverting the course of justice and abuse of office.

The full court on July 21 last year, found that the arrest warrant was void and of no legal effect, quashing the criminal charges Pala was facing at the District Court.

Varitimos submitted the Prime Minister has an arguable case because Justice Makail did not follow these two Supreme Court cases.

With the stay now in place against the Prime Minister’s arrest, the case will return for directions on a later date before the actual appeal can be heard.

Sally Pokiton