In September 2011, the author was one of two Federal Court of Australia judges appointed to the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to sit on civil and commercial appeals. The article provides a personal account of the author’s first year as a member of the PNG judiciary. This was an eventful and tumultuous year which saw the PNG Supreme Court order that the Hon. Sir Michael Somare be restored to the office of prime minister; simmering political tensions which followed that decision; the arrest of the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia; a permanent stay of criminal proceedings against the Chief Justice; the enactment of the Judicial Conduct Act 2012 (PNG), which undermined the independence of the judiciary, and subsequent challenge to the validity of that Act; a further sedition charge being laid against the Chief Justice; and a national election. The author explores the impact of these events on the PNG judiciary. He also discusses options relating to the proposed establishment of a permanent Court of Appeal and an ultimate appellate court for PNG.
The rear driveway of the Law Courts complex at Waigani, Port Moresby, exits onto Sir John Guise Drive.1 In the late afternoon of February 2012, as I was being driven down that driveway, en route back to my hotel after a day sitting in court, I noticed a stocky man in rolled-up shirt sleeves and dungarees supervising a group of workers and laying out a plumbline for a rock retaining wall, then in the early stages of construction on the border of the driveway. He looked very like my new colleague, Sir Salamo Injia, the Chief Justice of Papua New Guinea (PNG), then of but recent acquaintance.
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