A five man Supreme Court bench has ruled that opposition leader Belden Namah has no standing to file a Supreme Court application challenging the election of Tari-Pori MP James Marape in May last year to be Prime Minister.
The highest court in Papua New Guinea says Namah’s status as a member of parliament is yet to be determined in a judicial review against a leadership tribunal which recommended his dismissal from office.
Deputy Chief Justice Ambeng Kandakasi, on behalf of judges Panuel Mogish, David Cannings, George Manuhu, and Jeffery Sheppard made the ruling today on objections to competencies against Namah’s case.
The principle ground of the objections to Namah’s application at the competency hearing was whether at the date when he filed the application, through to the date of the competency hearing, he was suspended from official duties under the Leadership Code.
The suspension related to allegations against him for misconduct in office.
He was referred to a tribunal and found him guilty of the allegations and recommended his dismissal from office.
However, Namah, by way of a judicial review in the national court, challenged the decision of the tribunal, and had it stayed.
The bench today held that although Namah had contended that he was neither dismissed, nor suspended at the time he commenced proceeding, the court held that Namah remained suspended from duty, from Oct 18, 2017 when he was first referred to the first tribunal in his case which was chaired by Justice Goodwin Poole.
That tribunal was disbanded by an order of the national court, and was permanently stayed.
Justice Kandakasi said the public prosecutor later referred Namah to a second tribunal chaired by Justice Terence Higgins and that leadership tribunal subsequently found the leader of the opposition guilty of misconduct in office.
“Namah had gone to the national court and filed a judicial review, leave was granted and that leave operates as a stay, on the decision of the leadership tribunal.”
Justice Kandakasi said the stay was issued on July 5, 2018, but since the suspension was by operation of law, the court found that nothing since then, in the supreme or national court, has stopped his suspension.
The bench held that Namah could not perform public duties or filesuch a Supreme Court application, until a time his matter before the tribunal was determined, and also declared his application incompetent, and be dismissed in its entirety.