The Law Council of Australia this week said it supports a statement issued by Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) and notes under the Papua New Guinea Constitution, Parliament may only exercise authority or direction over the judiciary through legislation.
Its comments come after LAWASIA expressed its grave concern for the rule of law after the arrest of the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Inja, on charges of sedition.
LAWASIA said it records its concern not only for the manner in which a senior judicial officer was arrested but also for the nature of the charge against him, which would seem to indicate a lack of understanding of the role of the courts and the separation of powers on the part of the executive.
The organisation said it unequivocally emphasises the fundamental importance of the independence of the judiciary as a hallmark of rule of law in any democracy and urges the political actors in Papua New Guinea to be mindful of the universality of this tenet.
Law Council of Australia President, Catherine Gale, said the Law Council has previously expressed its concern over the threat posed to the rule of law in Papua New Guinea by political tensions involving members of Parliament and the Judiciary.
“The Law Council makes no comment with regard to the political issues at the heart of recent tensions, however, it is apparent the parties to these issues have been unable to de-escalate the current situation.
“The Law Council is particularly concerned about the implications of the arrest of the chief justice.
“The Law Council urges the caretaker government and the international community to work together to ensure that the elections in June are safe and transparent and respect for the rule of law and its institutions are upheld.”
Gale said the Law Council does not presume to comment on the underlying reasons for the arrest of the chief justice.
“The arrest of a judicial member on charges of sedition, arising out of a judicial pronouncement, is highly unusual and in the absence of overwhelming justification, represents a direct affront to fundamental principles underpinning the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
"The Law Council is watching developments closely and with deep concern", said Gale.