Papua New Guinea Attorney General decries bench warrant for his arrest

11/11/2011 22:21


Under siege Papua New Guinea Attorney General Dr Allan Marat says the Supreme Court should have given him the opportunity to be heard before it issued an order for his arrest.

The MP, who has a bench warrant out for his arrest, is currently in his Rabaul electorate in East New Britain province.

The Supreme Court has ordered that Dr Marat and Acting Prime Minister Belden Namah be arrested for contempt of court following the decision by cabinet to suspend chief justice Sir Salamo Injia.

Speaking to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) this afternoon, Dr Marat said he should have been given the right to be heard.

“I want to say that I'm not happy. I'm not happy that I was not informed in advance by any form of documentation and so I was not given the opportunity to present myself before the court to be heard before the order for my arrest was issued,” he said.

Ironically, the high court yesterday noted that the chief justice cabinet was not given a right of reply to the allegations raised against him nor served a notice of his suspension as the chief justice.

Government sources say PM Peter O’Neill, who is currently attending the APEC summit in Hawaii, has been briefed on the developments. He is not expected back in PNG until 15 November despite the potential of a vacuum in the office of the Prime Minister if and when Mr Namah is arrested.

Cabinet has powers under the PNG constitution to suspend the chief justice but the timing is suspicious with the Supreme Court scheduled to hand down its ruling on the legality of the O’Neill government on 9 December.

Justice Bernard Sakora highlighted when giving interim orders that while Sir Injia was not given the right of reply by cabinet, the fact that he currently chairs a Supreme Court reference whose ruling could determine the fate of the O’Neill government, is also in itself contempt of court.

Despite securing office on August 2 with the overwhelming support of 70 MPs, the O’Neill government had tried unsuccessfully to delay the reference and even threatened the referrer East Sepik provincial government with suspension if it did not withdraw the proceedings.