Somare goes big on seeking damages over removal
Papua New Guinea's veteran leader Sir Michael Somare is seeking damages of 205 million kina over his removal as Prime Minister on August 2, 2011.
Papua New Guinea's veteran leader Sir Michael Somare is seeking damages for his removal as Prime Minister in 2011.
Sir Michael has filed a summons against Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and the State seeking damages of 78 million US dollars over his removal in August 2011.
The removal of the longtime Prime Minister, after his seat was declared absent due to prolonged absence from parliament, was subsequently ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Sir Michael's lawyer says since filing the application for damages in March, Mr O'Neill and the state have not replied.
Paul Barker of PNG's Institute of National Affairs spoke to Johnny Blades about the Somare application and asked him if it was unprecedented in PNG.
PAUL BARKER: Completely. It does seem to relate to a slightly feudal perspective of what government is, as though the leaders actually almost won their positions and own the proceeds of office, whereas quite clearly this is vastly in excess of what the official income and allowances would be for holding office during that time. So it does seem rather extraordinary.
JOHNNY BLADES: Does it relate to the loss of earnings that Sir Michael could have built up during that time if he hadn't been removed or is it about damages to his reputation by the manner and process of the removal?
PB: I think one would have to ascertain from him and his lawyers actually how he is calculating that figure. It's certainly unrelated to any formal salaries and allowances. But of course, as we know in PNG, there are various other benefits that seem to be accrued by leaders and I suppose they could see those as being a personal right from their term of office. But I think maybe the Ombudsman Commission and the general public could probably not see that as the leader's entitlement.
JB: Perhaps should it be the MPs who the legal action is being taken against, because it was their decision [to remove Somare] and it was after all about the supremacy of parliament?
PB: Well, that's right. Obviously, the person who took over, Peter O'Neill, wasn't the only player and it was parliament as a whole who made those decisions even though he clearly became the leader. But his deputy at the time, Belden Namah, was also a major instigator of the whole process along with the rest of the team. Clearly there was a significant level of frustration over issues to do with the executive government at the time but also and even to the point where members of the then Prime Minister's own household were indicating that he was stepping aside. So it was the result of a vacuum in authority and a procedure that was rammed through, and which had been blocked for an extended period of time and MPs were frustrated and at the time, they argued that parliament had the people's mandate and the power.
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