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JUSTICE: PNG lawyers plan to sue Ombudsman

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PORT MORESBY (Pacnews) --- Private law firm Pato Lawyers is preparing to sue the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman Commission and the Attorney-General for substantial damages for alleged loss of reputation and business as well as for unspecified damages as a result of the Cairns Conservatory Report, Pacnews reports.

The law firm believes it has been excluded from acting for the State and its agencies for five years as a result of a recommendation in the report.

It will also seek to have the recommendation quashed.

In the Cairns Conservatory Report the Ombudsman Commission said Pato Lawyers had an alleged conflict of interest by acting for both the vendor (Katingo Pty Ltd) and the buyer (Public Officers Superannuation Fund).

It described the arrangement by Pato Lawyers as "dangerous and wrong" and alleged it had given "incorrect advice."

In its final recommendations, it said of Pato Lawyers: "The Attorney-General issue guidelines to all government departments and any government bodies, that Pato Lawyers should not act for the State, any government department or other government body, for a period of five years from the date of this report."

The law firm claimed this recommendation and subsequent action to exclude it is "harsh and oppressive, illegal and unconstitutional" and "politically motivated" because as far as it is concerned it had not done anything illegal to warrant such a penalty.

Further, the firm believed the Ombudsman Commission has no powers to enforce its own recommendations as has been the case.

The Ombudsman Commission recommendation was also the subject of a series of questions raised in Parliament by Madang MP Jacob Wama in relation to the employment of Rimbink Pato, the former principal of the law firm, as chief executive of Finance Pacific Ltd.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta said he would make a statement to Parliament on the matter, including the controversy surrounding Mr Pato's employment contract.

The firm alleged that following the publication of the report, former Attorney-General Michael Gene in December last year wrote to the Ombudsman Commission advising that the exclusion action was "unconstitutional"...PNS

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