Toropo’s Appeal Suspended

Solicitor General Tauvasa Tanuvasa has outlined that necessary steps will be taken as legal advocate of the State to make sure there is stability within state institutions including the PNG Defence Force.

The recent court events were triggered by an application by Retired Major General Gilbert Toropo that saw the National Court respond by ordering a stay on the Head of State Appointment Instrument that appointed Major General Mark Goina as Commander PNGDF.

Solicitor General Tanuvasa has outlined that necessary steps will be taken as stated in a court order by Justice Hartshorn, between the appellants being the National Executive Council and Dr. Eric Kwa the Attorney General and Department of Justice and Attorney General Secretary, and Respondent, the former Commander of the PNGDF Gilbert Toropo.

Tanuvasa emphasized that he was instructed by the NEC and Attorney General to personally attend to the matter with his team. He said the efforts from his office and other relevant parties were focused on averting a situation that could lead to a potential division within the PNGDF that may spill over into the public causing civil unrest.

Tanuvasa said his team filed an application for leave to appeal, seeking the permission of the Supreme Court to appeal the decision of Acting Judge Emma Wurr, who in the view of Tanuvasa and his team, erroneously granted a stay of the NEC’s decision to revoke the appointment of the former PNG Commander Toropo.

“We filed that application earlier hours of yesterday (Wednesday 5 January 2022). We managed to get that application before His Honor Justice Hartshorn, and his honor granted us the permission to appeal the decision and also granted the named appellants, namely the NEC and the Attorney General, granted permission to appeal the decision of that 31st of December and also the National Court proceedings,” stated Tanuvasa.

He explained that the court orders of 31 December 2021, have been stayed, thus the situation now exists as though the National Court proceedings was never filed in the first place. This also means that the NEC appointed Commander of the PNGDF remains Major General Mark Goina.

Justice Hartshorn signed the court order on Wednesday 5 January 2022, with the State given 21 days from Wednesday 5 January 2022 to file its appeal proper.  

“21 days is for the state to file its proper appeal and we will deal with it proper in the Supreme Court. We are in no rush.”

The Solicitor General emphasized that the State has time to file a proper appeal, which the Supreme Court will deal with to determine if the judge in the court acted with the proper principles of law.

Tanuvasa said the State has some ground especially because the named defendants in the National Court where never given the documents properly as required by law. He said the State was not named as a defendant and was bypassed.  

He added: “The orders were obtained without affording any natural justice or any sort of right to be heard to the NEC, to the Attorney General or even to the State.

Tanuvasa clarified that all the orders obtained by former PNGDF Commander Toropo through his lawyer was done without the knowledge of the Solicitor General’s Office. He said it is for those reasons that the court granted permission to appeal.

“The former Commander will be given the right to be heard in the Supreme Court and as far as the Defence Force is concerned, there is only one CDF and that is Major General Goina.

“We stand by the Commander and we will ensure that there is no instability, that there is peace and good order within Defence Force and also for the people of this country,” concluded Tanuvasa.

Marysila Kellerton