Trustee challenge removal of Dr Moutu

The Government’s decision to remove Dr. Andrew Moutu as Director of the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) on Nov 22, 2016 is being challenged in Court.

The litigation – OS 872 - was initiated by the NMAG’s Board of Trustees (BOT) as the main plaintiff against the Culture and Tourism Minister, Tobias Kulang as first defendant, Prime Minister and Chairman of National Executive Council (NEC) as second defendant, Public Service Minister, Sir Puka Temu as third defendant, Personal Management Department Secretary, John Kali as fourth defendant and the Independent State of PNG as fifth defendant. 

The matter went before National Court’s Justice Leka Nablu last Friday, Jan 13, where the plaintiff’s lawyer, Jerry Siki of Greg Manda Lawyers was seeking ex-parte orders – among others - to restrain the removal of Dr. Andrew Moutu from Office as Director of the NMAG and to restrain any purported appointments by the defendant/s of any person to the position of Director of NMAG “pending the determination of the substantive proceedings or until further orders of this court”.

Justice Nablu also noted that the lawyer (named) representing Minister Kulang did not have a practicing certificate and refused to grant leave as sought.

She however, directed that the plaintiff’s lawyer re-file the application in form of a “judicial review” instead of an “ex-parte” application and have copies (notice) served to all parties in time before Jan 31 at 9:30 am when the matter has been adjourned to.  The Judge noted that the case is of national importance and a judicial review is critical to determine the legalities surrounding the leadership issues of the NMAG. 

In its Decision No. NG 13/2012 dated Aug 20, 2012, the NEC had “approved that the appointment (of Dr. Andrew Moutu) be for a term of four (4) years commencing on and from 20th August, 2012 as per section 20 (1) (b) of the National Museum and Art Gallery Act 1992 and Resolution of the Board of Trustees No. 2070512…” (para 5.).

The NMAG BOT’s resolution # 2070512 dated May 7, 2012 reads: “at the above meeting of the Board of Trustees, it was unanimously resolved that as per the requirement of the NMAG Act 1992 –section 20 (1) (b) that we set the term of the appointment of the Director for 10 years. The Trustees feel that this is a reasonable time for a professional Director to implement necessary changes to the Museum to bring its operations to world standard. We must advice the Minister to advice the NEC that period of the term of the appointment of Dr. Andrew Moutu as Director is ten (10) years”.

BOT members who presided at that meeting comprised Julius Violaris, Andrew Abel, Peter Loko, Nora Vagi Brash, and Dr. Michael Mel. 

The different interpretation and application of the above decisions and resolutions have attributed to the current malaise at the NMAG. 

 

Picture: Dr. Andrew Moutu at his Waigani home in Port Moresby on Monday. Picture by Cyril Gare.

 

Author: 
CYRIL GARE