A chalice is a ceremonial cup, often bearing a drink that confers upon the drinker a blessing – as in the Christian Eucharist. Traditionally, when someone received a chalice it was in connection with the gaining of high status – it is used in modern times as a metaphor for achieving a high and prestigious office – but what if that chalice does not carry the expected blessing but instead contains poison, asks PNG Echo?
It’s no picnic fighting corruption in PNG; just ask Sam Koim.
Koim’s fall from official favour (if not public grace) has been swift and it’s been brutal. In one fell swoop he’s gone from being the investigator to the investigated.
But is anyone really surprised – least of all Koim himself?
When the position of Head of the Independent Task Force Sweep was filled by Sam Koim, he was a Principal Legal Officer at the Office of the Solicitor-General (a relatively junior position).
Mr Koim, who would have been barely 30 years old, at the time and a relatively inexperienced lawyer was being tasked with a huge job. In many cases the people he would be investigating would be the very people to whom he would report. How was that ever going to work?
It was naïve to expect that this glittering chalice that raised Koim up from relative obscurity into the international spotlight to be feted in the halls of such illustrious institutions as Cambridge University came without a price.
Looking at the evidence: as Task Force Sweep was established by the O’Neill/Namah government – (with both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister having been tainted by allegations of corruption, many of which had neither been seriously investigated nor adequately explained away) – it’s my contention that Sam Koim was expected either to fail or to toe the government line.
He didn’t and he hasn’t.
In spite of low expectations, Sam Koim was achieving the sort of results that no investigator before him had. The conviction of the once powerful Member of Parliament, Paul Tiensten, was something, the likes of which PNG had not experienced before.
But Sam Koim was always destined to be ‘damned if he did, and damned if he didn’t.’
The chalice was poisoned.
Sam Koim has (until his recent trip to Australia) relied on the law as his only weapon – at least as far as I know…and it’s proving not to be up to the task – corruption fighting back with every weapon in its powerful arsenal.
No one is above the law…
…is a platitude especially when used by the Prime Minister himself. Neither is it particularly accurate, especially when the other two arms of government – the executive and the legislature – can successfully conspire to keep any matter away from the courts (who are, hopefully, still independent but alas not without their own accusations of bribability).
It’s not as if the political machinations of the Prime Minister have been particularly subtle – they haven’t.
They’ve been brazen and quite often, patently self-serving, in particular the appointment of Geoffrey Vaki as Police Commissioner.
No matter from what angle you view the appointment of Vaki, it is impossible to find any other explanation given his actions since being appointed – actions that had one solicitor, temporarily involved in the case of the stay of the Prime Minister’s arrest warrant, asking what side he (the solicitor instructed by the Police Commissioner) was supposed to be on?
This appointment has put sitting Judge Kariko between a rock and a hard place. The law, exemplified by the courts, is an adversarial process – if there’s no one to oppose, there is no case.
Now, all parties before the court, want the same thing – for the warrant of arrest to be stayed. The newly appointed Police Commissioner has even gone one step further in to facilitate this goal and has applied to have the warrant quashed in another court.
Then, in the most sinister off all moves, Vaki has asked for all records pertaining to the Paraka matter to be handed over to him.
The moving about of records tend to see many being misplaced or disappearing – it’s happened before.
In the NPF scandal, records that were used to form the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, who named many people (including Peter O’Neill) disappeared and/or were not available for subsequent prosecuting authorities.
The allegations against Peter O’Neill never reached the courts, there was no longer any evidence extant. I’d hate to see this happen again.
There are only two things that will force the Prime Minister to submit to the courts and the first is ‘people power’ – except in Papua New Guinea, the protest movement is weak, itself tainted by corruption, is politically compromised, has no credible leader and hence no cohesion.
The other is if other Members of Parliament, with their collective consciences twinged by the brazen manipulations of the Prime Minister, were to insist on it.
Hitler was only defeated when his generals turned on him. (Although I am not suggesting that Peter O’Neill is in any way comparable to Hitler – just the situation).
However, with four more MPs joining (or seeking to join) the PNC last week, support is galvanizing behind the Prime Minister – not vice versa.
PNG loves a winner – and I’ve noticed, that those that have been silent in the euphoria created by the arrest warrant are now feeling more confident to speak out in support of the Prime Minister and there are others switching allegiances to what looks more and more like the winning side.
In this context the law is impotent and integrity is a dangerous luxury – ask Sam Koim.