Report – By Pacific Media Watch
Papua New Guinean political rivals Anton Yagama and Peter Yama have both been jailed for nine and six months respectively for being in contempt of court.
But the two leaders spent only six hours of their punishment in Madang’s Beon Jail after their lawyers successfully obtained a stay order in the Supreme Court which granted their release from jail pending the hearing of their substantive appeal at a later date.
Yagama is the Usino-Bundi MP and Yama is a prominent businessman and a former MP of the electorate.
The two leaders and six others who were supporters of Yagama were sentenced on Friday by the National Court in separate proceedings after it found them guilty of contempt charges.
The other six supporters, namely Augustine Koroma, Jack Tongia, Kunda Kana, Michael Tomorangai, Rutai Tongia and Steven Andanbo, were each convicted of contempt of court, and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
Yagama was convicted on two counts of contempt of court and faced a possible jail term of 18 months for each of the counts.
But Justice David Cannings, who presided over the case, said in his ruling:
“A reduction under the totality principle was warranted as the contemnor is an MP and may lose his seat, causing inconvenience and a loss of empowerment for his constituents, if he is punished for a period of more than nine months.”
He was therefore sentenced to nine months imprisonment.
Yama was convicted on two counts of contempt of court by firstly interfering with and harassing members of the police force and secondly threatening to shoot members of the police force.
Justice Cannings in his ruling said: “I have identified more mitigating than aggravating factors. Punishment below the starting point of 12 months imprisonment is called for. The appropriate punishment for each offence is six months imprisonment.”
He was sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Both leaders have successfully stayed their sentence pending the hearing of their appeal by a full bench of the Supreme Court.