By PNG Echo.
Although the Paraka case exposes the biggest corruption ring ever prosecuted in Papua New Guinea, lately the prosecution of just one man has taken over, to the seeming exclusion of all others – the case of the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill. He is a huge spreading tree camouflaging the rest of the forest.
In part, this is the fault of the Prime Minister himself who has stubbornly refused to be questioned by police.
His refusal, and the machinations to avoid doing so, has divided the police force and, as in 2011, has pitted the executive against the judiciary, once again.
Looking at it from the Prime Minister’s point of view, if the allegations of political conspiracy hold any water, then to risk being put at the mercy of those who plot politically against him is folly.
However, this case is not about politics but about theft – grand theft – and one can’t help but have the sneaking suspicion that it is being used to effect political goals by those wanting to wrest power.
That the first letter, allegedly from the Prime Minister, was revealed in parliament by the opposition is indicative (and wasn’t this also the source of the second letter?)
In all fairness, as far as that letter is concerned, I cannot find a single instance when the Prime Minister stated it did not carry his signature. He did however, repeatedly claim the provenance was not his office and he had many and varied reasons why this was fact.
It’s widely rumoured and generally accepted that the explanation for the first letter was that the PM signed while ‘incapacitated’. In other words, he did not realise what he was signing.
Therefore, on his part, there was no intent to defraud – just gross negligence.
The PM has neither confirmed nor denied the rumour, which is not surprising given the embarrassing nature of his action, if true.
An examination of the second letter seems to bear this out.
It’s clear the writer is seeking to normalize a situation caused by the first letter – which was the payout of the bills without due diligence and solely on the Prime Minister’s say so. This action is consistent with someone who has realized his initial faux pas and is attempting mitigation.
But curiously, according to a report by ABC (today), the Prime Minster also denies being aware of what he was signing then either. That’s too much negligence to be credible. Surely, the appropriate lesson would have been learned the first time around and not replicated.
I also wonder about the timing of the subsequent letter; whether the Paraka bills had been paid out by then – it was 16 months later.
Nevertheless, there’s nothing in the publicly available evidence that would prove any intent to defraud on behalf of the Prime Minister, nor does the available evidence reveal whether he had benefited from the alleged fraud.
The onus is now on the investigating team to prove differently and Sam Koim has publicly stated that he has more evidence but will reveal it only at the correct time to the people charged with deliberating on criminal matters, where it can be legitimately tested – the courts. That’s if he can ever get the Prime Minister there.
There’s more than one alleged guilty person in the Paraka case
With the emphasis on bringing the Prime Minister to Justice and the Prime Minister’s insistent on doing it his way – with an eagle eye on retaining power – the case against Paraka and his alleged (other?) cohorts suffers.
Now, all those who oppose the Prime Minister, including those up to their neck in allegations of their own, are seen as heroes of the hour.
Then there are moves afoot to prove that Paraka has no case to answer – that his claims on the Finance Department were legitimate.
While this would save the Prime Minister from possible prosecution it would also exonerate everyone else in the alleged conspiracy – and given the findings from the COI Finance department, that would require the suspension of all disbelief – but stranger things have happened in PNG.
The future of Task Force Sweep is also in jeopardy – disbanded then reinstated and reprieved today by the courts for another few days. How many live cases may die with the demise of this agency – if that is indeed its fate? What a waste of K30 million that would be.
Because of the vigorous pursuit of the Prime Minister and his equally vigorous defense, how many people are potentially poised to get away with blue murder in PNG and live on to prevail and continue their thieving ways?
I wonder which party will blink first – or will they fight it out to the death – with PNG as so much collateral damage.
The future trajectory of corruption in PNG rests with this one man. There needs to be a hero!