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The Supreme Court has ruled that Bougainville President John Momis cannot contest another election because the Bougainville constitution says a person cannot serve more than two terms.
Momis, from Buin in South Bougainville, has already served two five-year terms as president – from 2010 to 2020.
He filed a case in the Supreme Court this year arguing that the provisions in the Bougainville Constitution on the matter was not consistent with the PNG Constitution and should be declared unconstitutional.
His lawyer Loani Henao submitted that the Bougainville Constitution was “subject to the PNG Constitution”, and therefore should give people the “right to vote and stand for public office”.
Solicitor-General Tauvasa Tanuvasa representing the Justice Minister and Attorney-General Davis Steven told the court the matter was for the Bougainville House of Representatives to legislate on.
Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives Simon Pentanu through lawyer Greg Sheppard argued that the court should decline to give an opinion as the operation of the Bougainville Constitution should be left to the House of Representatives to determine.
Four of the five judges – Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Deputy Chief Justice Ambeng Kandakasi, Justice Nicholas Kirriworm and Justice David Cannings ruled that the provisions were constitutional and valid as to how Bougainville decided on the election of the president by its parliament.
Justice Kandakasi said the Bougainville Constitution “is the law when it comes to matters that are exclusive to or only applicable to Bougainville”. Justice Les Gavara-Nanu ruled otherwise, saying the provisions referred to by Momis were inconsistent with the National Constitution.
One of those MPs, Francesca Semoso, from the North Bougainville women's seat, celebrated the ruling on social media.
“Decision finally delivered by the Supreme Courts, our Constitution still triumphs and democracy lives. God bless our lovely homeland.”
One of a number of people who have already announced their intention to run is James Tanis, who was president from 2008 to 2010.
He took to facebook saying, “I must assure you that you have lost nothing but just succeeded again by testing the resilience of the Bougainville Constitution and its consistency with the PNG Constitution.”
Earlier Momis had said if the Supreme Court turned down his application he would be happy to go into retirement.
It would signal the end of a political involvement going back to the 1960s.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS
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