By Hon. Bryan Kramer.

Yesterday, (14/8/19) both newspapers ran a front page headline on Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch Supreme Court reference challenging Prime Minister James Marape’s election on 30th May 2019.

Marape was elected 8th Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea following the forced resignation by predecessor Peter O’Neill on 29th May 2019.

Marape was elected by an overwhelming majority, 101 votes to 8, over the Opposition nominee Sir Mekere Morauta.

Overwhelming members of the Opposition including the Opposition Leader crossed the floor to vote for Marape abandoning their own nominee, Morauta.

If Pruaitch voted for Marape’s why on earth now challenge his election?

Short answer is, he is upset he was never invited to join Government and secondly to help Peter O’Neill get back into power.

The old adage, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. In this case the enemy of Marape is O’Neill, therefore making him Pruaitch’s friend.

So what are the grounds (reasons) Pruaitch is relying on to challenge Marape’s election?

According to newspaper report Pruaitch wants the Supreme Court to determine whether the decision of Speaker, Job Pomat to accept O’Neill request to withdraw his nomination after nominations closed was unconstitutional.

Unconstitutional insofar as it breached sections 50, 59, 142 and 158(2) of the Constitution.

What are these sections or provisions?

Section 50 – constitutional law that provides for right for citizens to vote and stand for public office.

Section 59 – relates the law on principles of natural justice – is the duty to act fairly and, in principle, to be seen to act fairly.

Section 142 – provides for the establishment of office of Prime Minister, including his appointment and dismissal from office.

Section 158(2) – In interpreting the law the Courts shall give paramount consideration to the dispensation of justice.

What do these constitutional provisions or laws have to do with the election of James Marape being unconstitutional?

Well before answering that question lets first re-look at how Marape’s was elected Prime Minister.

The process or procedure for the election is provided for under Section 7(A) of Standing Orders (rules/procedures) of Parliament.

7A (1) states where Prime Minister shall be elected by motion duly moved and seconded without notice in accordance with this section.

On the day of election the Speaker did call for nominations.

Governor for Enga Sir Peter Ipatas moved a motion nominating James Marape to be Prime Minister, the nomination was seconded (supported) by Governor for Manus Charlie Benjamin.

Patrick Pruaitch nominated Peter O’Neill, seconded by Belden Namah.

Opposition Member Allan Marat nominated Sir Mekere Morauta, seconded by North Fly Open MP James Donald.

Section 7A(5) states each member nominated shall inform the Parliament whether he accepts the nomination – Speaker did ask all three nominees if they accepted their nomination – which they did.

Section 7A(6) states nomination that is not seconded is not a valid nomination – all three nominations were seconded.

So what is the issue?

Whether Speaker ought to have refused O’Neill’s request to withdraw his nomination after nominations were closed. or

Afforded mover of motion, Pruatich the right to be heard as he was the one who nominated O’Neill.

Whether Speaker ought to have sought (permission) of parliament to start the entire process again affording Pruaitch the opportunity to nominate someone else after his nominee declined following the close of nomination.

Pruaitch has filed Supreme Court reference asking the Court to interpret whether the process followed breached Section 50, 59, 142 and 159(2) of constitution.

Section 50 insofar as denying him the right to nominate someone else or be nominated himself after O’Neill withdrew his acceptance of nomination after nominations closed.

Section 59 – whether the decision was a breach of natural justice insofar it wasn’t fair to him, he wasn’t afforded to the right to be heard. He was a mover of motion to nominate O’Neill and should have been consulted to withdraw his own motion.

Section 142 states Prime Minister shall be appointed by the Head of State, acting in accordance with a decision of the Parliament. Insofar as Speaker decided on the nominees and not Parliament.

Section 159(2) court must interpret the law with paramount importance to delivering justice. In this case Pruaitch is arguing the process followed was unjust.

Before Supreme Court will interpret constitutional reference it must determine the applicant in this case Pruaitch has standing (meaning they have sufficient interest in the case to justify the court offering its time to hear it.

The question of whether an applicant has standing is a matter at the discretion of the Supreme Court, to be exercised in accordance with the following rules:

a) The applicant will have standing if he or she has a sufficient interest in the matter, which will be demonstrated if the applicant:

has personal interests or rights that are directly affected by the subject matter of the application; or

is a citizen who has a genuine concern for the subject matter of the application; or

is the holder of a public office, the functions of which relate to the subject matter of the application.

(b) They must raise significant (not trivial, vexatious, hypothetical or irrelevant) constitutional issues.

(c) They must not be a mere busybody meddling in other people’s affairs and must not be engaged in litigation for some improper motive, eg as a tactic of delay.

(d) The fact that there are other ways of having the constitutional issues determined by the Supreme Court does not mean that a person should be denied standing.

On the face of the record Pruaitch would appear to meet the test for standing. However the controversial issue being he never planned on voting for O’Neill. Pruaitch nominated O’Neill in a secret scheme to split Marape’s votes using O’Neill’s nomination in a last desperate effort to have Opposition’s real nominee, Morauta elected. Their plan back fired after O’Neill was forced to withdraw his nomination.

To establish improper motive – I look forward to submitting evidence explaining the details of this secret plan, the parties involved, and the exchange of large sums of cash leading upto the vote.

Source | Kramer Report

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