|Subject: Give informed views on Ipatas
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Date Posted: Sat, Aug 26 2006, 04:22:09pm
What's your argument? This guy got a couple of bucks from Ipatas and he is jumping up & down!
Give informed views on Ipatas
OUR firm acted for Enga Governor Peter Ipatas who appeared before a Leadership Tribunal.
We are not normally drawn to defending or discussing court decisions in the media. However, on this occasion, we see a need to make the following observations for the benefit of the public and commentators who are taking the liberty to attack the tribunal and its decision.
First, the decision of the tribunal is a public document. It is available to anyone, who cares to request it, at the National Court Registry in Waigani.
A copy of the judgment and other documents can also be obtained from our office upon request.
We trust that reference to the written decision of the tribunal and other relevant documents, such as the statement of charges, will immediately disprove the continuing reference to millions of kina misappropriated or stolen by the leader as simply unfair and untrue.
It was never alleged that Mr Ipatas had misappropriated any public money.
Essentially, the charge was that the leader had abused his position for his own benefit in that this was company was awarded a contract worth K250,000 to build a double-storey classroom in his electorate.
He was found guilty on that count and other related counts.
However, the evidence before the tribunal (including material produced by the prosecution) provided compelling reasons in Mr Ipatasí favour on the question of blameworthiness.
It was decided, following precedents set by earlier decisions, that an alternative penalty other than dismissal from office be recommended.
The number of counts, for which the leader was found guilty, appear to be a major point of disquiet. One needs to read the decision to understand that the majority of the 16 counts relate to the filing of incomplete annual returns.
A careful reading of the decision of the tribunal will show that while he was guilty as charged, Mr Ipatas was not entirely to be blamed as there were many other factors, including reference to the Ombudsman Commissionís role to scrutinise the returns and assisting leaders to ensure compliance.
It is noteworthy that the tribunal chairman echoed the same concern as other judges in earlier cases about the gross inadequacy of the sum of K1,000, the maximum fine prescribed by the existing legislation on alternative penalties.
Until Parliament amends the law to increase the maximum amount, leadership tribunals will be faced with the same dilemma as in this case, where dismissal is not warranted and the only alternative is to impose the maximum fine of K1,000, which we all know is grossly inadequate.
Other significant matters highlighted in the tribunalís decision will interest an objective reader if one cares to read the judgment.
The leader, more so members of the tribunal comprising a superior court judge and senior magistrates, cannot respond to public criticisms for obvious reasons.
Those who exercise their right to comment should express informed views but show some restraint and respect for the justices who continue to tirelessly and faithfully discharge their duty to enforce laws passed by Parliament in a nation that has more challenges than meets the eye.
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