14 Sep 2007

PNG PM to appeal National Court rejection

10:19 am on 14 September 2007

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister plans to appeal the National Court rejection of his application to have a Defence Force inquiry declared null and void.

Justice Bernard Sakora made the ruling because Sir Michael Somare and fellow plaintiffs' lawyers failed to give him a copy of the Inquiry board's report.

The report examined the Australian lawyer Julian Moti's escape to Solomon Islands on a PNG military flight last October when he was wanted by Australia for extradition.

Making his ruling, Justice Sakora accused Sir Michael of abusing the processes of court in bringing the application.

The judge also questioned if attempts to suppress the report were moves to "protect egos of Olympic proportions".

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."

Kerenga Kua

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer has welcomed the court's decision to reject the challenge to the Defence Force Inquiry .

Mr Downer says Australia has consistently called for a credible and transparent investigation into Julian Moti's departure from PNG in October 2006.

He says the illegal departure of Julian Moti remains of very serious concern to Australia and he hopes the Court 's decision will lead to appropriate legal follow-up action against whoever was responsible.

In further reaction, Papua New Guinea's Opposition has called on Sir Michael to step down following his failed attempt to quash the findings.

Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta and his deputy Bart Philemon say Sir Michael should follow the example of previous prime minister, Sir Julius Chan, who stood down to allow a commission of inquiry into the 1997 Sandline affair.

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 court battle.