PNG Loop’s court week in review

This week saw the election of Francis Potape as Hela Governor declared illegal the third time in the National Court and a Manus man was given additional imprisonment term for his second misappropriation funds case.

The week also saw the issue over the Hagen Returning officer come before the Supreme Court for hearing, a day after candidates disrupted flights into Mt Hagen.

The week ended with the Chief Justice visiting the Bereina district in Central for the first time to see for himself the next project where the Judiciary will be upgrading its facilities.

Komo-Margarima MP Francis Potape’s election by members of the Hela Provincial Assembly as Hela Governor  was declared void by the Waigani National Court the third time on Wednesday.

Potape was elected governor on 29 December 2015, 6 Sept 2016 and 13 September 2016.

The National court on Wednesday declared his election void because mandatory notices to be issued to all members of the Hela Provincial Assembly to attend the meet were not given out. This decision came from a judicial review proceeding. 

The new province will go into the elections with the governor’s post vacant. Deputy Governor Thomas Potape will be administering the province in the meantime.

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 In Crimes matters before the National Court, a man Manus who was already serving a term of 5 years for misappropriation was sentenced to an additional 8 years for his second misappropriation case.

David Kumalau Pondros will now serve a total of 13 years at Bomana and will be put on two years good behavor bond upon his release.

He was sentenced to an additional 8 years on Tuesday for misappropriating K5.3 million; funds that were meant for a Coconut Integration Facility project to be built in the Tol area of the Pomio District in East New Britain, between 2008 and 2010.

He was serving a 5-year sentence for misusing K400,000, monies paid to his company for the purpose of conducting feasibility studies for the construction of jetties along the cost of Ijivitari in Northern Province when he was convicted and imposed the additional 8 year term.

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While still on Crimes court, the National Court administrator judge for general crimes will be visiting the Buimo prison in Lae next week.

Justice Panuel Mogish is in Lae to assist the crimes court in the Morobe Province with its backlog of cases.

Unlike the situation in other provinces, detainees waiting and attending court at Waigani from Bomana have good interaction with the courts regarding their case.

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Also on Tuesday this week, the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia presented the 2015 Judge’s annual report to the Governor-General in the hopes it will be presented and debated in parliament when the new government comes in.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia presented the report to Governor-General Bob Dadae at the government house.

He said the judiciary would want to see the report tabled in parliament, through the office of the speaker, for debate because that is the only avenue for the courts to report on its activities to the public and the people of Papua New Guinea.

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In the Supreme Court, the issue over the appointment of the Hagen Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer went before the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

This Supreme Court appeal was filed by James Yoka Ekip and Simon Sanagke on May 24.

The appeal is against the decision of the National Court when it dismissed a judicial review they had earlier filed challenging the decision of the Electoral Commissioner in appointing Paul Goema and Andrew Kerowa as the Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer for the Hagen Open seat.

While this matter was waiting to go before court, other candidates and their supporters took issues into their own hands on Wednesday and disrupted flights into the Kagamuga airport by sitting and protesting on the tarmac.

Air Niugini resumed flights into Mt Hagen on Thursday.

Ekip and Sanagke filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, asking the court through their lawyer to stay the decision of the National Court, dated 4 May, which refused an application they had earlier filed.   

Justice Collin Makail refused to allow the review to go ahead because the court was of the view then that they did not have standing, were not interested parties and did not have an arguable case.

Aggrieved with that decision, Ekip and Sanagke filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, asking it to stay that National Court’s decision and at the same time, restrain Goema and Kerowa from carrying out their duties pursuant to their appointments.

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And to end the week, the Judiciary's plan in ensuring all cases are heard in proper court facilities has prompted the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia to visit the Bereina station and experienced the condition of its existing facility.

His visit on Friday to Bereina was the first for a local Chief Justice after the last expatriate head of the Judiciary visited the area some 43 years ago.

For the locals there, it was history for them to have the country's Chief Justice visits their district as he has not visited any other districts in the Central province. 

Sir Salamo's visit was to inspect the area where the current court facility sits and for planning to go ahead in upgrading the facility.

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Sally Pokiton