Supreme Court reinstates PNG MP after bribery ruling overturned

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Kairuku MP Peter Isoaimo
Kairuku MP Peter Isoaimo . . . back to PNG's Parliament after corruption case overturned. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Melyne Baroi in Port Moresby

A Papua New Guinea MP, Peter Isoaimo, who had been ousted by the National Court in an alleged bribery case, has been reinstated by the Supreme Court on appeal.

A three-member Supreme Court bench found that the National Court had erred in finding that Kairuku MP Isoaimo had committed bribery and ousting him in a Court of Disputed Returns trial in June last year.

The National Court judge, Justice Teresa Berrigan, then ordered a byelection. However, this was overturned last Friday on appeal.

Outside court, Isoaimo’s lawyer George Kult confirmed that Isoaimo can now return to Parliament and continue serving the people of Kairuku district in Central province.

Justice Susan Purdon-Sully handed down the decision on behalf of the two other judges, Panuel Mogish and Jacinta Murray. She said the earlier decision by Justice Teresa Berrigan last year had been quashed.

The three-member bench found that the petition had a “pleading deficiency” in that the bribery was done with the knowledge and authority of Isoaimo and that he had aided his campaign coordinator Maso Makuri in committing the offence.

They found that the petitioner, Paru Aihi, had failed to notify Isoaimo of the facts of the allegation which he could have responded to. They upheld Isoaimo’s appeal in that Justice Berrigan erred on mixed law and fact.

‘Basic yet fundamental’
“Pleadings draw evidence which is the most basic yet fundamental feature of a petition,” Justice Sully read.

“Where an allegation is serious in nature the onus is on the petitioner to prove to the entire satisfaction of the court.”

The judges found that the failure to plead facts of the allegation contravened section 208 (a) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections.

Outside court, a teary-eyed Isoaimo said it had been embarrassing to deal with the wrong National Court decision which had then “seemed like the truth”.

However, he said his two decades of reputation built through parliamentary leadership had gained him loyal supporters.

“I am thankful for my supporters, now it’s time to get back to work as we have a lot to do,” he said.

Isoaimo is a member of the National Alliance and will bolster the NA’s ranks in government.

Melyne Baroi is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.

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