18 Mar 2014

PNG govt fails in attempt to have Manus inquiry head stand down

9:27 am on 18 March 2014

An attempt by the Papua New Guinea government to disqualify a judge from presiding over an inquiry into the Manus Island regional processing centre has been refused.

Crown lawyers said Justice David Cannings should stand down from the inquiry he launched because proceedings were moving unusually fast, and because he had previously overseen another challenge to the centre by the opposition leader, Belden Namah.

Justice Cannings also disclosed that the Australian public health specialist chosen to investigate the centre, Dr Paul Crouch-Chivers, is his long standing friend.

Justice Cannings launched the inquiry following a riot in the camp that claimed the life of 23-year-old asylum seeker Reza Berati.

Under PNG law, judges can mount their own human rights hearings.

The Public Solicitor, Frazer Pitpit, rebutted the argument put forward by the government lawyer Peter Kuman that there was a conflict of interest.

He said the paramount issue of justice had to be considered.

Dr Crouch-Chivers and the court-appointed party will make their first visit to the centre on Wednesday.