Two Australian lawyers representing members of the Papua New Guinean police have been banned by the PNG government from entering the country.
Greg Egan and Terence Lambert, who both hold current practising certificates in PNG, are representing members of the PNG National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate and the anti-corruption agency, Taskforce Sweep, in cases relating to the arrest of prime minister Peter O’Neill.
National fraud and anti-corruption Directorate Head, Chief Superintendent Mathew Damaru and Chief Inspector Timothy Gitua are in the process of being defended by the now banned Australian lawyers.
“The Law Society views their ban as a violation of the rule of law in this country, in the context that lawyers play a very important and crucial role in the administration and dispensation of justice in PNG,” said PNG Law Society President Peter Kuman, who only learned of the ban through local media.
“It appears that the matter is sub judice as the decision to ban the two lawyers is the subject of a judicial review in the National Court and we always respect due process. However the travel ban on Egan and Lambert raises grave concerns and leaves us deeply disturbed.”
The Australian Bar Association
and the Law Council of Australia
both released statements yesterday calling for the travel ban on the two lawyers to be lifted.
“Every citizen of Papua New Guinea is entitled to legal representation and in particular, is entitled to choose who represents his or her interests,” said Patrick O’Sullilvan QC, vice president of the Australian Bar Association.
“Mr Egan and Mr Lambert should be permitted to enter the country and continue to represent their clients – immediately.”
Law Council executive member Morry Bailes said the ban is a threat to the rule of law and transparency in the region.
“I endorse the Australian Bar Association’s statement today asserting that lawyers must be free to practise the law and represent their clients without fear of reprisal,” said Bailes.
“It is vitally important that the legal profession remains independent and that the executive arm of government does not interfere with the administration of justice.”