Immunity for AFP contingent to PNG still unconstitutional - Wenge | Pacific Beat

Immunity for AFP contingent to PNG still unconstitutional - Wenge

Immunity for AFP contingent to PNG still unconstitutional - Wenge

Updated 17 July 2013, 11:31 AEST

Australian Federal Police officers deployed to Papua New Guinea could be vulnerable to prosecuton in PNG's courts.

Fifty AFP officers will be sent to PNG by the end of the year to help with law and order problems.

Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made the announcement yesterday at a joint press conference with PNG's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

But the man who led the 2005 constitutional challenge against immunity for AFP officers says they must be subject to local laws.

Luther Wenge is the former Governor of Morobe Province. In 2005 his Supreme Court challenge resulted in the withdrawl of more than 160 Federal Police from PNG.

He is now retired from politics but, as he tells Bill Bainbridge, he would support moves to have the Supreme Court reinforce its order.

In resonse to a question on whether Australian police would be immune from prosecution, the AFP has told Radio Australia that arrangements for the deployment are to be developed in the coming weeks by an AFP scoping team, the PNG Government and PNG's Police Commissioner.

Presenter:Bill Bainbridge

Speaker:Luther Wenge, former Governor of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea

WENGE: I didn't actually challenge and say that the Australian Federal Police should not be deployed in Papua New Guinea to help out the rate of disorder or the breaches of law in this country. What I said simply was that the agreement which was signed, the local treaty that was signed between Papua New Guinea and Australia and it was enacted in parliament, was that sections of that treaty or the law did not comply with the Papua New Guinea constitution,that is that they're going to give them immunity from prosecution. And I said that was completely unconstitutional in this country. Only the Public Prosecutor has that perogative and no others in the country. So on that basis we took the matter to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court by five judges unanimously agreed with me, saying that the provisions of that law was unconstitutional.
BAINBRIDGE: Is it your understanding that that Supreme Court ruling from 2005, that still stands? There's not been any change to the law or any reinterpretation of the constitution, it would still be the case if Australian Federal Police come that they could not have immunity from prosecution?
WENGE: Yeah the Supreme Court ruling, you know the Supreme Court is the highest court in this land, and the constitutional court, and they had made a decision declaring that part of the provisions of that act or treaty was unconstitutional. So it remains unconstitutional, and unless the constitution is changed the Supreme Court decision will remain.
BAINBRIDGE: And can you tell me would you be involved again in a challenge to this if for instance the same conditions applied, if these Federal Police are offered immunity? Would you be involved in a challenge or would you encourage a challenge to go back to the Supreme Court?
WENGE: Yeah I wouldn't have a standing in law. I wouldn't have a standing because the constitution gives certain institutions standing,or locus standii to challenge if any act that parliament is unconstitutional in the Supreme Court, the constitutional court. So obviously I wouldn't have the standing, I'm a private citizen. I wouldn't have a standing but I would encourage instutions that have standing to challenge in the Supreme Court again to get the Supreme Court to reinforce its order.
BAINBRIDGE: I read one suggestion that the reason that the deployment of the Australian Federal Police was opposed by some people was that the oversight of the Australian Federal Police meant that local police weren't able to engage in some of the corrupt practices, and basically they didn't want somebody looking over their shoulder. Do you think that's an element here?
WENGE: Maybe but those are not constitutional questions, but those are questions, I suppose the top brass in the police force might think that they're coming to look over their shoulder, as a human being feeling uncomfortable and raise those points. But I didn't raise those points, I raised constitutional questions to the Supreme Court. And the ruling was based on the constitutional question.

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