Armed cops bar Chief Justice from court precinct
Papua New Guinea’s Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia has told colleague judges and court staff that armed policemen prevented him from entering the court precinct today.
The policemen, who were led by deputy police commissioner Simon Kauba, stopped the chief judge despite being served a copy of a Supreme Court order which stayed Sir Salamo’s suspension by the cabinet of parliament-elected Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Mr O’Neill announced the suspension of the Chief Justice on Thursday over misappropriation allegations, however the Supreme Court countered by staying the suspension via a court order, pending the outcome of contempt of court proceedings against Mr O’Neill and a number of his ministers and lawyers.
“The Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia informed judges and court staff and the people of Papua New Guinea that armed policemen led by deputy commissioner Kauba denied the chief justice access to the Waigani courthouse, despite being given to him a copy of the court order issued by the Supreme Court yesterday, which stayed the suspension from office of the Chief Justice, pending charges of contempt being laid against the Peter O’Neill and members of the NEC and certain lawyers,” read a statement issued the Office of the Chief Justice this afternoon.
Speaking on condition of anonymity to PNGPerspective.com, Port Moresby-based court staff said security was tight around the court precinct and “everyone is watched and it is frightening”. It is understood judges held a crisis meeting this afternoon to discuss this second attempt by Mr O’Neill to remove Sir Salamo. The wording of the statement from the Office of the Chief Justice appeared to make a plea to Papua New Guineans to alert them to the actions of the O’Neill government.
The O’Neill government previously tried to remove Sir Salamo in November last year but was instead slapped with a bench warrant by the Supreme Court for the arrest of Mr O’Neill’s deputy Belden Namah and Attorney General Dr Allan Marat. This latest attempt comes after the Supreme Court-reinstated PM, Sir Michael Somare, filed contempt proceedings against the O’Neill regime early this week.
There appears to be no end in sight for the month-long stalemate with both sides continuing to trade accusations and make their own public service appointments, despite separate appeals by the churches for them to return to the negotiating table.
Australia, which gives over $A400 million in aid to PNG, has also appealed to Mr O’Neill and Sir Michael to resolve the political stalemate peacefully and as soon as possible, following the failed mutiny attempt by pro-Somare soldiers to force the reinstatement of the Somare government.