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PNG Phone SIM card registration challenged in court

Lawyer takes the sim card registration and deactivation process to court. He says the Government-sanctioned exercise is an abuse of human rights

As the nationwide mad rush continues on SIM card registration amid deactivation threats, the process is being challenged in court in Port Moresby.

Lawyer Baundo Francis initiated the case as a private citizen, describing the Government-sanctioned exercise as an abuse of human rights for subscribers.

The matter went to the Waigani National Court yesterday before Justice Colin Makail.

National Information and Communications Technology Authority, its chief executive officer Charles Punaha, Communications and Information Technology Minister Sam Basil, and the State have been named as defendants.

The matter was adjourned to January 17 for further directions and to give time for parties to put in their affidavits and make their representations official.

The Government had extended the SIM card registration to January 23 following public outcry over the December 31 deadline. Mr Basil had warned that subscribers would be deactivated after that date if they failed to register. “The substantive matter is basically for the entire process to be relaxed, made flexible optional or voluntary so individual subscribers living right throughout the length and breadth of the nation can register his or her SIM card at a time convenient to him or her,” Mr Francis told the media outside the court room after the proceedings.

Mr Francis, a Digicel subscriber, said that the people’s freedom of choice should have been considered when registering SIM cards.

He said that customer identification was one of the big issues that authorities failed to address prior to the SIM card registration.

“Subscribers are in numbers and because there is lack of knowledge about human rights and violations therefore, they don’t know what to do. They don’t know the right approach to take in the event that their human rights are violated. I am rising up for such people,” Mr Francis said, adding he would write to the court registrar to transfer the case to the human rights tract.

He said that NICTA and the Government should have also taken into consideration the geographical difficulty and inaccessibility of subscribers in the remote areas to register their SIM cards.

Mr Francis appealed to interested authorities and members of the public to come forward with affidavits to support the matter before the return date.

Only deputy Solicitor General Tauvasa Tanuvasa, who appeared yesterday in court for Mr Basil and the State, said he hoped the case would be withdrawn. He said that one of the issues they will raise in their affidavits was that Mr Francis did not have the consent authority to file the case on behalf mobile phone subscribers. “He is representing himself and he is of the view that he is representing everyone else. It doesn’t work that way. You have to have the consent authority of the people who you represent,” Mr Tanuvasa said.

Mr Francis however, said he would take judicial notice as this is an exceptional representative case where consent and authority were not required. “I cannot not be forced to travel the entire length and breadth of the nation just to go and meet a single subscriber to ask if he or she consents to be represented in the court because Digicel hasn’t done it or the State hasn’t done it through NICTA so if these people cannot do it how can they expect me reach out to these rural areas to get the consent and authority of every single subscriber?” he said.  Source: Post Courier

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