UPNG journalism student

A new twist in the Supreme Court challenge on the legality of Prime Minister James Marape’s election as Prime Minister has emerged, Post Courier has reported.

Firstly, a new Special Supreme Court Reference has been filed this time questioning Mr Namah’s recognition as the Opposition Leader when he filed the challenge against Marape’s election thus a stay application on the substantive reference which will be heard before any progress of Namah’s reference.

Secondly, an appeal has been filed by the Member for Komo-Margarima, Manase Makiba whose application to intervene was refused by Justice Hartshorn.

And, thirdly, a three-man bench will determine the new Reference, Stay application and the appeal on 24 February and Namahs Reference will return for directions on March 3.

The new Reference was filed by the Member for Sinasina-Yongomugl Kerenga Kua in December last year when he, Mr Kua stood in for Davis Steven as Acting Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Justice and Acting Attorney-General.

Prime Minister Marape’s lawyer, McRonald Nale submitted in court that the special reference arose in the following circumstances: On September 10 last year former Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch announced his intention to join the government. Following this, four members of the Opposition met on September 11 and resolved that Mr Namah became the new Opposition Leader.

Mr Namah then filed the reference on September challenging the legality of prime minister’s election allegedly without formal recognition of the Parliament which is argued to be inconsistent with schedule 1.2 of the Constitution and section 3 of the Interpretation Act 1975, Mr Nale said.

“At the time Belden Namah filed the reference SCC (OS) No. 4 of 2019, Mr Patrick Pruaitch still remained the Opposition Leader as he had not formally resigned.”

Mr Nale submitted that the special reference must be heard prior to the substantive matter as the outcome of the special reference has a direct bearing on it.

However, lawyer representing Mr Namah, Greg Sheppard submitted that the special reference merely questioned Mr Namah’s standing and not the reference itself that challenged the legality of the election.

He said, “The issue raised by this reference (reference challenging the legality of prime minister’s election) touches the core of the procedures involved in appointing the executive officer of this country.”

There are basically four questions raised in the Attorney-General’s Reference all asking the high court’s opinion on when former Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch was deemed to have left the Opposition Leader’s post and when Namah became the new leader.


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