Palmer CJ and Bond liaised on Moti’s removal
I refer to the letter written by his Honour Chief Justice Sir Albert R Palmer CBE in response to an article written by me and published in your newspaper on Friday 15 July, 2011 under the headline “The name is Funk, Skunky Funk”.
In his response to my article his Honour commented that:
“The only encounter I recall with Peter Bond was not pre-arranged and not in my office. I understand this encounter is a matter which has been raised in the courts in Australia and so it would not be proper to make any further comment on it.”
While I appreciate that memory can fade with the passage of time resulting in inconsistencies between the recollections of different parties involved in the same encounter, I would like to take this opportunity to reacquaint his Honour with some contemporaneous material relating to his “encounter’ with Australian Federal Police Senior Liaison Officer Peter Bond during 2007.
On Monday 24 December 2007 Federal Agent Bond e-mailed a colleague in Australia, Jared Taggart, with the express purpose of updating him on the developments over the weekend of 22-23 December 2007 concerning the ongoing manoeuvres by the Australian Government to deport former Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti QC to Australia.
In the e-mail, Federal Agent Bond chronicles under sub-heading “Sunday 23.12.07” as follows:
“Approx 1400hrs Justice Palmer provided the SLO [Federal Agent Bond] with a copy of his full Judgment denying Moti’s Application for a Restraining Order on 22.12.07”
With due respect, I find it highly improbable that the Chief Justice would be walking the streets of Honiara on a Sunday afternoon carrying a copy of his full judgment on a matter that was admittedly of high importance to the Australian Government, where he happened to chance by the very man who had the greatest interest in the judgment, at that time, Federal Agent Bond.
What is more likely is that his Honour and Federal Agent Bond met in Chambers where “a copy of his full Judgment denying Moti’s Application for a Restraining Order on 22.12.07” was provided for the express purpose of providing Federal Agent Bond with the most current information with which to update his colleagues in Australia.
What is perhaps of more interest is that under the same sub-heading “Sunday 23.12.07” Federal Agent Bond further states that:
“Justice Palmer also informed the SLO that he had circulated the PM’s letter regarding Moti’s employment to the five other members of the Commission for their consideration … and that all members of the Commission would be meeting with the Prime Minister at 1500hrs that day in the PM’s office to discuss further. (J. Palmer informed the SLO that the Commission would be advising the PM to issue a Letter to Moti ASAP terminating his employment as the Attorney General of the Solomon Islands).”
What is of concern here is that Chief Justice Palmer was on the following day, Monday 24 December 2007 rostered to hear Moti’s appeal against his own decision refusing to grant Moti a Restraining Order on Friday 22 December 2007. This is the same Restraining Order referred to in Federal Agent Bond’s e-mail to Jared Taggart, mentioned above.
While I appreciate that his Honour was required to wear multiple and competing ‘hats’ on this occasion, in the interests of transparency he should have recused himself from hearing Moti’s appeal on the following day, especially given that all the available contemporary evidence suggests that the outcome of that appeal had been decided before being heard.
While on the subject of transparency, Federal Agent Bond’s diary contains an intriguing entry for 23 December 2007:
“Advice PM to issue termination letter”
Clearly Federal Agent Bond was engaged in more than just a friendly ‘sidewalk chat’ with his Honour on the Sunday preceding Moti’s deportation to Australia. In the interests of justice and transparency, this meeting should have been disclosed by his Honour prior to hearing Moti’s application arising from an appeal against his Honour’s own decision.
Another point I would like to canvass in my response to his Honour is that on 28 February 2008, Magistrate Esther Lelapitu wrote a report to the “Hon. Sir Albert Palmer Chief Justice” bringing into question the professionalism of Gabriel Suri in a matter that Moti had filed in the Central Magistrates Court on 25 December 2007 seeking a judicial stay of any Deportation Order while proceedings were afoot to address outstanding legal issues arising during his tenure as Attorney-General of Solomon Islands.
In the course of writing this report, Magistrate Lelapitu noted that:
“Also on the 27/12/2007, whilst I was meeting with the Chief Magistrate, you telephoned him and told him to hear Mr Suri’s application instead of me … It appears that the [Solomon Islands] Judiciary is controlled by someone else and it is not transparency…”
This is a damning indictment on the current state of the justice system since RAMSI and the Australian Federal Police became involved in bringing the ‘rule of law’ to the Solomon Islands.
I have placed all of the documents I have referred to in this letter on my website http://blakandblack.com/ where they are available for inspection by all interested parties.
Finally and with the greatest respect, it matters not that the issue which caused Chief Justice Palmer to respond to my previous article is currently being judicially examined elsewhere. What matters most is that it hasn’t been adjudicated in the Solomon Islands … yet! The Lord only knows why. The High Court of Australia will find out why not when it hears Moti’s appeal on 3 – 4 August 2011.
Mark (Bakchos) Mullins