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Friday, September 14, 2007

PNG Opposition urges Chief Somare to step aside as Prime Minister after failed court application on Moti saga

The Papua New Guinea Opposition has appealed to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to step aside following his failed attempt to quash the findings of a PNG Defence Force board of inquiry.

Referring to the 1997 Sandline crisis when New Ireland governor Sir Julius Chan stepped down as prime minister to allow for a commission of inquiry, Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta and his deputy Bart Philemon said it was time Sir Michael “practiced what he preached” at that time and stand down over the Motigate saga.

“There is a precedent over the Sandline issue and I was in the Opposition then and we and Sir Michael (who was Opposition leader) called for Sir Julius to stand down which eventually he did. And I think we’ve come to the same challenge now over this issue (Moti),” Mr Philemon said.

The two leaders said Sir Michael should step aside and allow relevant state agencies to look at the findings of the inquiry following the unsuccessful National Court battle.

“That he owes to the nation, to the people and to himself as the founding father of this nation,” they told reporters yesterday in a press conference.

They warned that Papua New Guinea was at a crossroad as the court decision showed the executive and judiciary arms of government had differing views on the Moti saga.
Sir Michael was part of court proceedings initiated by former chief secretary to government Joshua Kalinoe and senior PNGDF officers Colonel Vagi Oala and Captain Tom Ur.

They filed a judicial review application and wanted the court to nullify the entire proceedings of the army inquiry which investigated Julian Moti’s clandestine escape to the Solomon Islands in October last year.

But Justice Bernard Sakora on Wednesday upheld the submission by the board’s lawyers that the applicants’ case was an abuse of the court process.

A copy of the inquiry report obtained by the Post-Courier show that all applicants including Sir Michael were implicated as the report recommended various charges be laid against them under the criminal and Leadership codes.

Sir Mekere, who tried to release copies of the Moti report during the elections but was warned of contempt of court charges, launched a scathing attack on Sir Michael.

“Justice Sakora’s conclusions are hard-hitting and should be taken to heart by the Prime Minister. His behavior is a complete disgrace and he must step aside. Somare used the court proceedings basically to suppress the report in the lead-up to the election. The inquiry found Michael Somare ordered the clandestine flight to transport Moti. In doing so, the Prime Minister and those he involved in the operation broke many laws,” Sir Mekere said.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Sir Micahel Somare plans to appeal the National Court rejection of his application to have a Defence Force inquiry declared null and void.

Sir Michael’s lawyer, Kerenga Kua, says the Prime Minister feels agrieved over the ruling.

“That report will be provided. There was an honest and genuine reason provided as to why it was not produced but that was rejected by the court and that’s fair enough - that’s an exercise of its own discretion. But on the question of whether that discretion has been exercised judiciously will be a matter for the Appeal Court.”

Source: Post Courier

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