3 Mar 2007

PNG opposition leader says govt received poor legal advice

11:06 am on 3 March 2007

The Papua New Guinea opposition leader says a supreme court ruling that the state of emergency in Southern Highlands province was unconstitutional is the result of poor legal advice to the government.

The emergency provisions lapsed last week and an attempt by cabinet to re-establish it was successfully challenged by the province's governor, Hami Yawari.

The supreme court ruled yesterday that the government can only call a state of emergency if there is war, a natural disaster or total civil disorder, and that the situation in Southern Highlands, where some essential services were near collapse, did not warrant such a move.

The opposition leader, Peter O'Neill, who is one of the province's nine MPs, says an emergency declaration was justified but the government had received substandard advice from the attorney general's office.

"And it goes to show the reflection of the ability of the state lawyers. There is sufficient evidence on the ground to suggest that a state of emergency is warranted because of the increasing law and order situation there."