PNG curbs foreign travel for ministers, officials

New generation: Talking with PNG's Attorney-General

Alex OliverALEX OLIVER | The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

LATE LAST YEAR I travelled to Port Moresby to interview some of PNG's newly elected MPs for the Lowy Institute's Leadership Mapping Project.

One of the most interesting discussions I had during my week in Port Moresby was with the new Attorney-General, the Hon Kerenga Kua. He is new to both the portfolio and to parliament, although politics formed a definite part of his very clear career plan.

Kerenga KuaKua has had a distinguished career in law, having been a founding partner in a successful commercial law practice in Port Moresby for 19 years after a five-year stint in Sydney with the Australian firm Blake Dawson Waldron.

His goal, he told me in October, was to establish a sound financial footing for himself and his family so he would not be vulnerable to the notorious corruption which infects PNG politics.

The Attorney-General has featured in the Australian press over the last week because the 'colourful' Opposition Leader, Belden Namah, is suing the government in the Supreme Court in an attempt to close down the Manus Island processing centre.

While Namah says the court action is entirely motivated a desire to uphold PNG's constitution, his words suggest a slightly deeper agenda, telling ABC radio 'we can't go outside of our constitution, outside of our laws to try and please our friends.'

My conversation with the Attorney-General in October, however, suggested that 'pleasing our friends' might indeed be one of the PNG government's motives in hosting Australia's asylum-seekers. The Attorney-General has a great admiration for Australia as a country that 'gets things right', and told me:

The two countries are deeply bonded from the PNG perspective...knowing that we're stuck with each can only understand it in times of crisis.

There are very few things PNG can do for Australia...[with] Manus Island, I see that as one opportunity to help Australia — to thank it for everything it's done for reciprocate for all the help we have been getting in the past.

Kua explained that opposition in PNG to the Manus Island processing centre was presented in myriad ways; as a criminal issue, as an issue of international legal obligations, and now, Namah has painted it as a breach of the nation's constitution.

The Attorney-General is well-equipped to take on the Opposition in the Supreme Court, having been the lawyer for the Somare Government before the last election.

In our interview, the Attorney-General looks in some detail at the challenges for PNG's law and justice sector, the capacity and structure of the legal system, the make-up of the Supreme Court, the role of the Ombudsman and plans for an Independent Commission against Corruption.

See the interview with Kerenga Kua here


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Joe Wasia

The Opposition leader Belden Nema's stance against the program is not restricted and can be tested in the rule of law.
And if the government of PNG and Australia did break that constitution entire program has to be shut down.

David Kitchnoge

From what's been reported in the press here in PNG, local police in Manus are facing a legal dilemma with policing unruly Australian asylum seekers held there. So Namah might well have a point.

I hope the Opposition do what they promised and seek a judicial interpretation of the constitutionality of the whole program. If it is found to be unconstitutional, then I’m afraid the centre is going to have to be shut down.

We can’t take our friendship for granted.

Bernard Yegiora

From what I heard he is a prospect for the position of prime minister.

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