Concerns of political interference in the command and control of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is among the grounds that will be pursued by suspended Chief of Defence, Major General Mark Goina in his appeal against his suspension if the court grants him leave to appeal.

Goina seeks leave to review the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) that suspended him from his substantive role as the Major Gene­r­al of the PNGDF on 17 August 2023, and appointed Commodore Philip Polewara as acting Commander of the PNGDF.

While pursuing his application for leave to review at the Waigani National Court, Goina through his lawyer David Dusal when giving the background of the matter, submitted in part that the Minister for Defence Win Bakri Daki, who is the third defendant in the proceeding, had been allegedly interfering with the command, control and operation of the PNGDF.

It was submitted that the plaintiff (Goina) became gravely concerned in recent times of the Minister’s insistence and instructions to Goina as the Commander of the PNGDF to appoint and discharge certain officers within the PNGDF which raised significant concerns of political interference into the functions of the military.

It was submitted that such authority was vested in the Commander of the Defence Force and not, the Minister, nor was the Commander subject to directions from a civilian.
Goina in his affidavit indicated that the Minister had to sponsor the NEC submission for him to be suspended without him being informed on the reasons for his suspension.

Presiding judge, Justice Oagile Dingake had to direct Goina’s lawyer to first make submissions on leave to review and not on the substantive merits of the case until leave was decided.

Goina’s lawyer Dusal then submitted that leave should be granted since Goina had met all the requirements of leave.

It was submitted that Goina, as the plaintiff, had standing as a person directly affected by the decision of the NEC on 1 August, 2023 and the subsequent gazettal by the Governor General on 17 August 2023, giving effect to the NEC decision.

It was also submitted that Goina had arguable grounds on the basis that there was an error of law pertaining to his suspension since his suspension was made without consultation with the Public Services Commission pursuant to s.59 of the Constitution and that he was not accorded the right to be heard.

It was further submitted that there was also no delay in the filing of the leave application.

The State through lawyer Alice Kimbu opposed the application for leave and argued that the plaintiff (Goina’s) suspension was still active and the proceeding would pre-empt or interfere with a pending inquiry into the death of two soldiers during a military training.

Kimbu further argued that although she had no issue with the plaintiff’s standing or the delay in filing of the application, leave should not be granted and must be refused on the basis that the proceeding would be destructive to the inquiry.

Justice Dingake when observing the submissions noted that although the plaintiff Goina may have met all requirements for leave, it has reached the third month of Goina’s three-month suspension period and there would be no utility in pursuing the matter further.

“Suspension is almost coming to an end, what’s the utility?

“Just when it is coming to an end, you’re coming to the court.

“Am I entitled to take into account that the suspension is coming to an end?

What happens if I reserved my decision for six months?” Justice Dingake asked.

Goina’s lawyer Dusal in response submitted that as per the suspension instrument, it was indicated that Goina be suspended for three-months or, pending the final outcome of the inquiry.

He therefore submitted that as per the Defence Minister’s statement, the inquiry would take six to 12 months and the status of Goina’s suspension would depend on the final outcome of the inquiry which could take that long.

Kimbu for the State argued that the grant of leave was discretionary and as per the circumstance, the court should not grant leave.

Justice Dingake reserved his ruling to a date to be advised to the parties.