26 May 2012

Commonwealth's Secretary-General calls on PNG to respect rule of law

8:36 am on 26 May 2012

The Commonwealth bloc of nations has called on Papua New Guinea to respect the rule of law and the judiciary's independence after its chief justice was charged with sedition.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma urged restraint in a country embroiled in a messy political deadlock where both Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and former prime minister Sir Michael Somare have declared themselves the rightful leader.

On Monday the Supreme Court ruled for the second time that Mr O'Neill's rise to power while Sir Michael was recovering from illness was illegal and that he should be reinstated.

Mr O'Neill claimed the judiciary was biased and rejected the decision, leading Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah and 10 police to storm the court Thursday and arrest Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia.

Papua New Guinea police confirmed Sir Salamo had been charged with sedition and appeared in court Friday morning.

Later on Friday, reports also came in that a group of about 20 police had blocked the entry to parliament.

The group said it would not allow access for any MPs trying to attend the special sitting of parliament announced by the Peter O'Neill group claiming to be caretaker government.

The men cleared out later after speaking with Assistant Police Commissioner Francis Tokura.

The special sitting then went ahead with parliament passing legislation to allow for states of emergency in the National Capital District, which encompasses Port Moresby and the two troubled Highlands provinces of Hela and Enga.

The measure will allow the caretaker government of Peter O'Neill to mobilise the army in those areas but details of what action will be taken are yet to be made public.

AFP reports the Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma saying the rule of law, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and constitutional, democratic governance are core Commonwealth values, which must be preserved in Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea goes to the polls on June 23.

Papua New Guinea is one of the 54 Commonwealth states, composed mainly of former British colonies.