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PNG Attorney General upset over chief secretary interference

Papua New Guinea Attorney General and Justice Minister Davis Steven is disappointed with Chief secretary Isaac Lupari for blocking the gazettal of an acting appointment he recently made regarding the position of solicitor-general.

Steven said Lupari and other public servants should refrain from interfering with the Government’s appointment process.

“My appeal to Mr Lupari is to stop interfering in the work of Government and the appointment process as some of us are here to serve the government of the day, and have no interest in anything (else),” Steven said.

Steven had sacked acting Solicitor-General Faith Barton early this month, and appointed Tanovasi Tauvasa to the position. But Lupari instructed the Government Printer in a letter not to facilitate the gazettal of the acting appointment.

Steven said only Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had the powers to block such appointments.

“Public servants have no powers to stop the process as the only person to give orders is the prime minister. And I have sought clearance from him,” Steven said.

“There should be nobody (else) to stop the Government Printer from gazetting it as the chief secretary did.”

In response, Lupari told The National that the matter was going to be addressed today by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

It is understood that Lupari acts only on the advice of the prime minister’s office.

Steven said he had sacked Barton for failing to defend the State against a recent K180 million lawsuit which was awarded to the Gobe landowners in Gulf and Southern Highlands.

Barton later took the matter to court seeking a judicial review on her sacking. She also sought orders from the court to restrain Steven from exercising his powers to make the appointment.

But the court rejected her application.

Lupari’s letter to the Government Printer was produced in court.

Steven said he was “sick and tired” of public servants blocking ministerial decisions.

“I don’t have any interest in it. But I want people to do their jobs,” he said.

“This (also) happened to the (appointment of the) secretary of the department. He had to go through the same kind of blockage from public servants. It took six month for the appointment of a secretary to be made.”

He said the solicitor-general’s position would be advertised and it was up to Barton whether to apply.

Meanwhile, the primary function of the public solicitor to provide legal services to the public will be extended to also include helping aggrieved landowners of resource development.

Attorney-General and Justice Minister Davis Steven said this was going to be announced Friday because it was right to assist poor people who could not afford the high legal fees when pursuing cases relating to land and resources.

Steven said the Public Solicitor provided legal services to people facing criminal charges. That will now include resource owners.

He said the directive would cover urban development cases such as the Motu-Koitabu landowners.

The first client the office will represent are the Vaala landowners in the Collingwood Bay timber case.

Motu-Koitabu landowners have also shown interest in acquiring the service of the public solicitor on the land-grabbing and illegal-migrant cases in the National Capital District.

Steven said the move was meant to help as many landowners as possible who could not afford the services of private law firms.

He aims to see the Government’s legal entities perform their duties and provide the best services to the State and the public.

“We need to improve our services and reach out to the public,” he said.

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