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PNG Military Leaders On Trial For Contempt Of Court
Agwi, Mai allegedly contravened 2006 court order

By Elias Nanau

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 25, 2013) – Papua New Guinea Defence Force commander Francis Agwi and Chief of Personnel Colonel Paul Mai will face trial for contempt of court after both officers pleaded not guilty last Friday.

Brig-Gen. Agwi and Col. Mai were alleged to have played separate roles in issuing orders and serving Col. Joseph Mark Kewa notice to be retrenched from the force, and therefore vacating the residence at Murray Barracks and his salaries to cease.

Kewa alleged that their actions in December 2011 contravened a court order issued against any such action in May 2006, of which both officers had full knowledge.

Justice Bernard Sakora last Friday found that there would be some anomalies in the naming Agwi and Mai contemnors as they were not occupying the substantive positions in 2006.

Sakora noted that the decision to cease employing Kewa was made by the National Executive Council then headed by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, the defence council of which minister Mathew Gubag was the chairman and army commander was Peter Ilau.

He said he could not charge Agwi and Mai when they were not named as defendants in the initial proceeding in 2005 which led to a court order.

"If the order was made for somebody else and somebody else tells you to do it, but you don’t, that’s the difficulty," Sakora said. "Firstly the orders must be clear, no ambiguity."

Kewa’s lawyer Paul Mawa said however both army officers were named in the current contempt proceedings because the order identified them in their capacity as ex-officio army officers.

"These two senior officers were not part of the NEC decision and the defense council," Sakora said.

"You should be liable for your own actions. You can’t be guilty by proxy," he said.

Sakora said after the World War II, the Nazis were trialed under international law for genocide in Germany and many who took part said: "We were obeying superior authorities."

Mawa said there was affidavit by then defence minister Guma Wau advising Agwi to reinstate Kewa and incumbent Dr. Fabian Pok also raised similar concern.

He said Kewa had to be returned to Murray Barracks while his substantive appeal was being dealt with.

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