Parliament versus the court: comment

SPEAKER Jeffery Nape has told parliament that Peter O’Neill was the legitimate prime minister of Papua New Guinea this morning despite the Supreme Court case yesterday which upheld Sir Michael Somare as the rightful PM.
Parliament versus the court: comment Parliament versus the court: comment Parliament versus the court: comment Parliament versus the court: comment Parliament versus the court: comment

In its ambitions to hold onto power, the O'Neill coalition government has made several direct attempts to interfere with the country's judiciary.

Most notable was the National Executive Council's failed attempt to suspend Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia last month.

Deputy Prime Minister under the O'Neill coalition government Belden Namah and its Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat are facing the Supreme Court this morning over contempt charges for this move.

Using the weight of their numbers in parliament, the O'Neill coalition has also pushed ahead with making unprecedented amendments to ensure O'Neill can remain as PM.

This, along with the parliament vote on Friday to retroactively rescind the leave of absence granted to Somare earlier this year, mark an ongoing conflict between the O'Neill coalition members of parliament and the judiciary.

While key policies of the O'Neill government have won popular support as the wider public seeks better outcomes in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, inflation, policing and corruption, there could be far wider impacts if the independence of PNG's judiciary is compromised.

The common law system in PNG and its highly regarded integrity has served as a key lure for foreign investment in the country's resources industries.

The prevailing view often seems to be that no matter how much corruption creeps into government, the judiciary will serve to enforce that the rule of law, especially in regards to contracts, is not compromised in the country and that investment decisions are consequently not put at risk.

In any event, the next stage of the battle between the O'Neill coalition and the Supreme Court is likely to heat up over the next few weeks as key MPs could face contempt proceedings.

What will be interesting will be the public reaction to these events.

Already there are views that the court outcome will be seen as a victory of the Somare-stronghold Sepik region of PNG over the highlands regions of support for the O'Neill-led coalition.

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