ABC: Lawyers for Papua New Guinea’s prime minister Peter O’Neill will question the jurisdiction of a tribunal set up to investigate allegations of misconduct in office.
Mr O’Neill is accused of bypassing proper procedures to secure a $1.3 billion loan from the Australian branch of UBS Investment Bank to buy Oil Search shares for the PNG government.
He initially welcomed the tribunal as a chance to clear his name but has since mounted legal challenges against proceedings.
A leadership tribunal is an ad hoc body that has the power to dismiss, suspend or fine leaders found guilty of misconduct.
Justice David Cannings on Tuesday upheld a move by Mr O’Neill’s legal team to have the three leadership tribunal judges made a party to a National Court case currently involving the prime minister.
The inclusion of the judges – from PNG, Australia and New Zealand – would reduce the “multiplicity of cases” related to the controversial government loan, Justice Cannings said.
The case is part of a wider challenge by the prime minister over whether public prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin has the power to refer him to the leadership tribunal.
“My client is insisting that the public prosecutor did not properly exercise his constitutional power,” Queensland QC Mal Varitimos said.
Mr O’Neill, who is due to face the tribunal on January 26, has denied wrongdoing.
He said the loan was approved by the cabinet-like national executive council and was in the best interests of Papua New Guinea.
His lawyers argue that the tribunal should not sit until other constitutional matters regarding the UBS loan are resolved in separate cases.
They are seeking a stay on the tribunal hearing and an interim injunction against the public prosecutor.
Lawyers for the public prosecutor argue that the challenge is an attempt to frustrate the work of the tribunal.
The National Court will resume on Wednesday to hear submissions from the prime minister, the public prosecutor and the tribunal judges.
Four members of parliament were referred to leadership tribunals in 2014.
In 2011, then-prime minister Sir Michael Somare was found guilty of misconduct and suspended for two weeks.