PNG Attorney General risks contempt, warns Kua
PNG's Attorney General has been warned that his determination on the legality of controversial state payments to a law firm, Paraka Lawyers, risks being in contempt of the Supreme Court.
Papua New Guinea's Attorney General Ano Pala has been warned that his determination on the legality of controversial state payments to a law firm risks being in contempt of the Supreme Court.
The warning comes from Kerenga Kua, who Mr Pala replaced as Attorney General last month, shortly after an arrest warrant was issued for the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill over his role in the allegedly illegal payments.
Mr Pala says he has determined that there is nothing illegal or criminal in payments made by the state to the law firm.
Mr Kua told Johnny Blades that the Supreme Court last week made it clear that the payments to Paraka Lawyers should go to trial.
KERENGA KUA: The Supreme Court order last week made it very, very clear that those bills were all illegal, and asked that a proper trial be conducted in the national court. So the matter is still under dispute and it's been referred back to the national court for a trial so I don't know how the Attorney General has taken it upon himself to make a determination that it's legal while the question is still before the national court and in many other forums as well, also the subject of heavy criminal investigations and so on.
JOHNNY BLADES: He has said there is new material which exonerates Mr Paraka and the others charged.
KK: I was sitting in that office for 22 months and the stuff he's talking about is not new material, it's old stuff.
JB: And he's said of course that he's examined all relevant material relating to the payments, used by Task Force Sweep...
KK: He hasn't been sitting in the office since he took up office so I don't know how he could have carried out a very detailed forensic analysis of all the evidence. There are volumes and volumes and volumes of documents. The bigger question is that these are all disputes, we have to bring these disputes to the proper forum for sensible determination. That is the courts. As the Attorney-General, he knows that. Why should he be trying to usurp the functions of court and make a determination?
JB: This all feels like it's reaching some sort of a head. Are you worried that there might be more circumvention of the process?
KK: Well, it's a very uncertain area when you go outside the law. So far, the warrant, as far as I'm concerned, has been validly issued - the courts have reaffirmed that. It's all open to be enforced by the police. The only people who are not moving their butts are the police. And every day they continue to refuse and frustrate the enforcement of the warrant is another day that goes by in contempt of the court order. The warrant is a court order. One day down the track, all these policemen who are involved in actively frustrating the execution of the warrant will have to account for their conduct to the court in contempt of court proceedings, and there's a couple already on foot. This sense of impunity and arrogance has to be brought to an end. We are a country of law. Everybody, including the Prime Minister and his Police Commissioner - I'm saying his Police Commissioner because this Police Commissioner doesn't serve PNG but serves the Prime Minister - so the Prime Minister and his Police Commissioner ought to follow the law.
Kerenga Kua meanwhile has welcomed the National Court move to grant an interim stay on the abolition of Taskforce Sweep, the anti-corruption investigative team whose probe resulted in the Prime Minister's arrest warrant.
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