PNG court rules police chief Manning can stay pending appeal

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Fred Yakasa and Sylvester Kalaut
Former PNG police acting deputy commissioner operations Fred Yakasa (left) and ex-assistant commissioner human relations Sylvester Kalaut at the courthouse in Port Moresby yesterday. Image: Kennedy Bani/The National

By Karo Jesse in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court has stayed a court order nullifying the appointment of David Manning as Commissioner of Police.

Manning, who was ordered to vacate his office by noon today, is also the country’s Pandemic Response Controller.

The order was handed down by Justice David Cannings in the National Court last Friday in response to an application for a judicial review of Manning’s appointment filed by former senior police officers Sylvester Kalaut and Fred Yakasa.

Both men had failed in an application for the position of police commissioner in competition with Manning in 2019.

Justice Cannings ruled that Manning’s appointment was wrong because he did not have a tertiary qualification as required for the parallel post of Secretary to the Police Department.

Yesterday, Justice Derek Hartshorn granted the stay order sought by lawyer Troy Mileng of the Solicitor-General’s office representing the state and lawyer Derek Wood representing Manning pending the determination of an appeal against Justice Cannings’ decision.

Justice Hartshorn said there was an arguable case on the separation of the two positions of commissioner and secretary of police which Manning was holding.

Ruling accepted
Manning will remain police commissioner in the meantime because of the stay order.

SOE Controller David Manning
PNG Police Commissioner David Manning … granted a stay of the order to vacate office. Image: EMTV News

Outside court, Kalaut and Yakasa yesterday accepted the decision by Supreme Court judge Justice Hartshorn.

Police Minister Bryan Kramer wrote a strong defence of Manning’s appointment on his Facebook blog this week, saying that due process had been followed and none of the six police commissioners since a law change in 2003 had had a tertiary degree.

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RNZ Pacific reports that in May 2020 Sylvester Kalaut was arrested by anti-fraud detectives within the PNG police force and charged with one count of abuse of office, and one count of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Karo Jesse is a reporter for The National. Asia Pacific Report republishes The National reports with permission.

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