Lawyers threaten PNG police with contempt over settlers eviction halt

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The Post-Courier's front page report 26012022
The Post-Courier's front page report on the stalled mass settler evictions today. Image: Post-Courier screenshot APR

PNG Post-Courier

A Supreme Court ordered mass eviction of settlers on land between Papua New Guinea’s University of PNG, Gerehu Stage 3B and Morata stage one in the National Capital District has been stopped at the 11th hour by Chief of Police Operations and Deputy Police Commissioner Operations Anton Billie.

Deputy Commissioner Billie’s orders to stop this mass eviction have put him in a collision course with two separate orders of country’s highest court — SCA 19 of 2018 and SCA 77 of 2015 — unless he reviews and rescinds his orders within 72 hours.

Lawyers representing the land developers have threatened the police with a contempt lawsuit.

Deputy Commissioner Billie ordered a freeze on the mass eviction citing concerns that the court order was not clear and that the legal ramifications of police involvement were not properly clarified in such a large scale operation involving many families.

In a minute sent to NCD Central Commander, Deputy Commissioner Billie said: “After having been briefed on the matter involving the occupants of the portion of land, NCDC, Sixth Estate Limited and Lands and Physical Planning Department, I believe it is a very complex issue as it is.

“If a request with clear court orders have been presented for police assistance, then we have to engage our Legal Directorate to clarify our legal standing in the matter first before engaging our men.

“There is no real need for impetuosity.”

Land dispute settled in 2016
But the registered proprietor of the land — as determined and settled by a three-man Supreme Court bench in 2016 — the Sixth Estate Limited, through its chairman and chief executive officer Philip Mark Paguk, said the Deputy Commissioner may not have been privy to the history of the issue.

In a detailed, five-page letter, including attachments, lawyers of Sixth Estate Limited, Kandawalyn Lawyers, explained the background to all the court proceedings from the district, national and Supreme Court and two police operational orders for the eviction exercise.

The law firm urged the Deputy Commissioner to revoke his earlier orders within 72 hours or contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court would be filed against him and others who were hindering the mass eviction.

“There is no stay order of the Supreme Court Decision in Otto and Others vs Sixth Estate Limited and Others; SCANO. 19 of 2018 and SCA. NO.77 of 2015, hence the runway is clear for the proposed eviction to progress in compliance with the Supreme Court Order,” the lawyers advised.

The letter went on further and stated that: “As far as we are concerned, there is no court order in place stopping/hindering/restraining the pro-posed eviction exercise.

“There is a Supreme Court order in place as mentioned in our letter for police assistance, and that paves the way for the eviction to commence with the assistance of police.”

CEO Paguk said that while he appreciated the concerns raised by Deputy Commissioner Billie in his minute freezing the eviction exercise, his company had spent millions of kina in mobilisation for this eviction after almost 10 years of court battles.

Republished with permission.

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