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Port Moresby
May 6, 2021

Legal Representation of Damaru and Gitua Challenged in Court

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By Theckla Gunga – EMTV News, Port Moresby

The National Court in Port Moresby heard yesterday that lawyers eligible to represent the two heads of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate are strictly those from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Lawyers representing the Police Commissioner and Justice and Attorney General Minister submitted that Fraud Director, Matthew Damaru, and his deputy, Timothy Gitua, should not be represented by private lawyers.

This case is in relation to the warrant of arrest for Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.

Justice Ambeng Kandakasi, Justice Derek Hartshorn and Justice Stephan Kassman heard the case.

The argument is that if individuals are representing the interest of the state in a court case, who should the appropriate lawyers be.

According to our constitution, individuals who represent the state’s interest are only eligible to be Public Prosecutors.

However, if they wish to engage private lawyers, they have to first seek approval from the Justice and Attorney General Minister.

For this proceeding, Chief Superintendent, Matthew Damaru, and his deputy Gitua had engaged Jema Lawyers and later the Queen’s Council, Greg Egan, to represent them.

Ian Molly and Mal Varitimos, the lawyers appearing for the Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister, challenged this legal representation on the grounds that they failed to get approval from the Attorney General.

In court yesterday, Damaru and Gitua’s lawyer Terry Lambert argued that though his clients were private individuals, they were representing the state’s interest and had the right to private lawyers.

However, Molly objected to the submissions, stating that Damaru and Gitua had failed to seek approval for private lawyers.

The court room became noisy when Justice Kandakasi questioned Molly and Varitimos saying “if a party is to contest a legal battle, they have the right to a lawyer.”

In response, Varitimos said it is PNG law that the Public Prosecutor is the right legal representative for Damaru and Gitua.

The three-man bench will make a ruling on this after considering submissions.

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