PNG government suspends chief justice in new twist to legal saga over its constitutionality
(L-R) Acting PNG Prime Minister Belden announces the suspension of chief justice Sir Salamo Injia (center)
this afternoon after Prime Minister Peter O'Neill (right) flew to Hawaii for the APEC summit.
The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government has suspended Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia in a new twist to the legal saga over the constitutionality of the O’Neill government.
Sir Salamo was until the announcement of his suspension the chair of the Supreme Court proceedings into the legality of the August 2 election of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his government.
The decision on the Supreme Court reference, which was filed by the East Sepik provincial executive, was scheduled to be handed down on December 9. It is not known if cabinet’s decision to suspend the chief justice will have an impact on the proceedings.
PNG deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah announced Sir Injia’s sidelining in the absence of Mr O’Neill who flew to Hawaii this morning to attend the APEC summit.
Sir Salamo’s removal comes on the back of denials by Mr O’Neill last week that cabinet was considering removing the chief justice, after former chief justice-turn-politician Sir Arnold Amet warned that the government planned to remove the head judge and a number of senior judges.
The chief judge was suspended over:
- A police report on Sir Salamo facing contempt charges along with former Supreme and National Courts registrar Ian Augerea for breaching contempt orders concerning entitlements relating to the estate of the late Justice Timothy Hinchliffe;
- Misconduct and double dipping relating to housing entitlements and improper abuse of Salaries and Remuneration Commission determinations relating to housing entitlements, housing allowances and security allowances among others;
- Gross mismanagement of the Supreme and National Court finances and;
- Conflict of interest with parties involved in cases.
Mr Namah added that cabinet has appointed a tribunal pursuant to Section 181 of the PNG constitution to investigate the allegations. It will be chaired by former judge Paul Akuram who will be assisted by judges Collin Makail and George Manuhu.
Cabinet has appointed deputy chief justice Gibbs Salika acting chief justice and justice Bernard Sakora acting deputy chief Justice, pending the outcome of the tribunal.
“There is only one law for all citizens and nobody is immune to prosecution if they breach them,” Mr Namah said.
It is the first time in PNG’s short history for cabinet to invoke that constitutional provision to suspend an incumbent chief justice.