The arrest of Aloysius Hamou: Of rogue cops, intimidation and base political motives.

By PNG Echo

It is very distressing that career public servants who have devoted their lives to the service of PNG are being used as pawns to get to the Prime Minister.

I wish I could tell you who said that, but I can’t. Although I can tell you it was in regards to the recent arrest of Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr. Aloysius Hamou in connection with the Israeli Turbines.

Court
Rogue cops? Vigilantes?

It is becoming increasingly rare that any of the good citizens of PNG are prepared to go on record openly criticising the shenanigans of Messrs Damaru and Gitua of the PNG Fraud Squad – and there’s much that needs scrutiny.

For even as the Prime Minister goes to some lengths to enact measures to rein in an ill-disciplined police force, Gitua and Damaru’s insubordination has been sanctioned time and time again by the PNG courts.

People are frightened – and so they should be – these two senior police officers are now a law unto themselves – vigilantes.

The disgraceful intimidation of Mr Aloysius Hamou – Deputy Secretary of Treasury

Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr Aloysius Hamou
Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr Aloysius Hamou

Mr Aloysius Hamou certainly was afraid when he was accosted at his home at 7.15 am on 28 January by police (they’d come the previous day early in the morning but the conscientious public servant had already left for work). And in spite of Lawyers engaged by Treasury turning up at the residence of Mr Hamou to inform the police officers that Mr Hamou was not compelled to accompany them to the police station and that he had no authority to provide the police with any Treasury documents (and indeed had legal impediments), the police were aggressively insistent.

Intimidation won the day and Mr Hamou and his lawyers took the argument to the Police station. At the Fraud Squad Offices Detective Chief Inspector Timothy Gitua was waiting

Mr Desmond Kipa - Twivey Lawyers
Mr Desmond Kipa – Twivey Lawyers

In spite of the fact that Mr Desmond Kipa of Twivey Lawyers informed Mr Gitua and other police that Mr Hamou was precluded, legally, from giving them information they interviewed him anyway. (Mr Kipa also gave them of copies of the Supreme Court order from SCA83 of 2014 which restrains the Police from investigating any matter concerning the Prime Minister and Police from harassing, intimidating, threatening or assaulting the Prime Minister’s lawyers) and it is well known that the Fraud squad was investigating the Prime Minister on the turbine matter.

Mr Hamou said nothing (at least one lawyer was with him all the time and can attest to that) and signed nothing – he was charged anyway.

He was charged with breaching section 92(1), which is a misdemeanour (a summary offence dealt with by the District Court) and is a charge that is NOT the jurisdiction of the Fraud Squad. Nevertheless the Fraud Squad had taken an inordinate interest in prosecuting (and persecuting) Mr Hamou.

The Officer in Charge of the police station was timidly reluctant to give Mr Hamou own recognisance bail as the amounts he said were “too large” and referred the matter to senior officers. Really? For a misdemeanor – an issue that should have seen bail granted as a matter of course?

It seems that Mr Hamou, a well-meaning and eagerly co-operative public servant; a man well into his fifties who had served his country for many decades and labored with a serious heart condition was being shamelessly used (and abused) to promote a base political end.

When you ask are there two sets of laws in PNG – think of this case before you answer.

They identified the weakest link

That’s the tip of the iceberg:

Mr Hamou was approached by the police quite unlawfully at the beginning of last year requesting that he provide Treasury documents concerning the funds allocated for the purchase of two gas turbines.

Mr Hamou, not appreciating that he had no authority to provide these documents (that are in the sole custody of the Secretary and confidential to the State pursuant to the Public Finance Management Act, and only obtainable by Search Warrant) happily acceded to their request. He had no qualms.

Secretary of Treasury, Dairi Vele was in Japan at the time
Secretary of Treasury, Dairi Vele was in Japan at the time

The documents speak for themselves: the Prime Minister asked Treasury to source funds from unallocated budget lines for the future procurement (purchase) of two gas turbines and Mr Hamou paid that money into a specific account to await the procurement process deputizing for the Secretary who was, at that time, in Japan. Treasury did not know who the seller was – neither is it Treasury’s role to know.   Treasury paid out no funds.

This is everyday procedure yet it seems probable that it is these documents, obtained by false pretenses, which form the basis of Mr Hamou’s arrest and charge.

What’s more, Mr Hamou, over the last seven (7) months, has been constantly badgered by the fraud squad – up until his arrest – to sign a statement implicating himself and others, which he has consistently declined to do.

Deputy Secretary Treasury Polum has also been badgered to provide confidential documents to the police to which they were not entitled – she declined.

The charge

  • Section 92 (1) says:

ABUSE OF OFFICE.

  • A person employed in the Public Service who, in abuse of the authority of his office does, or directs to be done, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of another is guilty of a misdemeanour

While I have no intention of preempting the court decision, which is scheduled for 22 March, I challenge the reader to fit the actions to the crime and charge. Mr Hamou will argue he did nothing but his job – a compelling argument.

Shaking the tree

The Prime Minister may not even be up that proverbial tree.
The Prime Minister may not even be up that proverbial tree.

These rogue cops are merely shaking the tree hoping the Prime Minister will land at their feet, never considering that he may not be up the tree in the first place – in their zealotry (fuelled by what?) good men and true like Mr Aloysius Hamou are being used as cannon fodder. it’s a witch hunt.

 

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Not all foreign political commentary is impeccable

By PNG Echo

Papua New Guinea has had 40 years of political independence - independence of thought is also encouraged.
Independence of thought to be encouraged too.

The recently published article of Dr Bill Standish entitled PNG politics after the boom, does not deserve the wholesale acceptance it has received in PNG.

Firstly it is intended for an international readership so glosses over much and while it has the air of being balanced and authoritative, close scrutiny reveals it to have considerable flaws and an undercurrent of governmental disapproval.

Unbiased journalism – no such thing

Perish the thought that journalism is ‘unbiased’. Indeed some journalism, such as opinion, requires the writer to be anything but. Nevertheless, most journalist/writers aim to be fair and provide balance. Yet, bias tends to manifest itself anyway. A writer doesn’t write in a cultural vacuum and what is one writer’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’

It’s all in the chosen word: so when Dr Standish, writes that:

In 2015 the Ombudsman Commission urged [my emphasis] the public prosecutor to make O’Neill face a leadership tribunal…

we start getting a glimpse of what Dr Standish’s language may be telling us.

oc-logoThe Prime Minister was ‘referred’, the Ombudsman’s Commission (OC) did not ‘urge’ anything. That the OC ‘urged’ suggests the charge is so serious that the OC is taking a particular and inappropriate interest. It’s not.

Dr Standish makes the accusation of the Prime Minister seeming “defensive” because of his banning of two Australian journalists and the PMs stance (taken effect this month) on foreign advisors. He calls this a “restriction on international oversight” whereas the Prime Minister believes he is merely restricting undue outside interference and taking back Papua New Guinea.

It’s all down to semantics again, Dr Standish’s ‘oversight’ is the Prime Minister’s ‘interference’

Furthermore, Dr Standish’s words subtly reveal a covert governmental disapproval when he talks of how

…O’Neill defunded the Investigative Task Force Sweep, [ITFS] which had gained several [my emphasis] major convictions…

Exactly how many are several? The word certainly implies that the ITFS enjoyed considerable success. But did it?

In the figures that Sam Koim (ITFS Chainman) provided the PNG public recently  he claimed to have registered 350 cases – 93 that were ITFS initiated of which 12 were successful.

Paul Tienstien convicted by TFS of official corruption
Paul Tienstien convicted by TFS of official corruption

Those figures neither take into consideration that the conviction of MP Francis Potape (one of the two major convictions of ITFS – the other being MP Paul Tiensten – twice) was successfully overturned on appeal nor that some have mooted that this may be the fate of other convictions.

For now, it stands at 11 out of 93, or 11.83% success rate! Based on the cases registered (350), the success rate comes out at 3.1%. Indeed, a full 50% of ITFS cases have not made it past committal.

Weighing it up – ITFS has not been the success that the mention of its “several convictions” in isolation suggests.

False Premises and the sins of omission

Dr Standish posed a question in his first paragraph where he writes:

As long as PNG’s mining boom lasted, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill could build parliamentary support by allocating constituency funds to each member of parliament’s (MP) district. So how will restricted funds impact upon O’Neill’s political position and the stability of the government?

The Prime Minister
The Prime Minister is not a sole arbiter

He’s talking of DSIP funds, I presume.

The question rests on an incorrect assumption: that the Prime Minister arbitrarily allocates these funds and that he’s the sole arbiter of who gets what. There is more to a government than merely a Prime Minister.

The funds are prescribed and applied to every constituency –so the answer to that question is: not at all, how could it?

The only impediment to the MPs obtaining these prescribed funds are in the timing –many have had to wait until funds become available and there have been accusations of the government manipulating the process for political ends – an accusation denied. This could be what Dr Standish is referring to – if it is, what he’s actually said is misleading – almost right, but not quite.

Then again, when Dr Standish speaks of Paraka’s “unauthorized invoices” and alludes to the fact that the UBS loan did not “seek the necessary approval of parliament” he is skating on very thin legal ice – both of these ‘allegations’ being currently tested in the PNG courts.

Moreover, according to Dr Standish’s analysis: “Two more ongoing legal cases could have a major impact on PNG politics in 2016” and he cites the opposition challenge to the blocking of two attempted votes of no confidence and the Namah challenge to the Manus Island Detention Centre.

Don Polye with the paperwork for his attempted vote of no confidence
Opposition Leader, Don Polye with the paperwork for his attempted vote of no confidence

Not really – the worse that could happen with the court challenge to the blocking of the vote of no confidence is that the vote is allowed to go ahead.   There was an overwhelming vote of confidence taken on the floor of the parliament in response to the attempted vote of no confidence and the status quo is unlikely to change.

PNGs opposition, even if joined by those on the middle benches, is miniscule; the attempted negative vote was always a nuisance tactic with precious little chance of success. The Opposition knew that and of this I was told by one of the signatories.

As for the case against the Manus Island Asylum-Seeker’s Centre by Belden Namah: if precedents are anything to go by, any case led by Namah is unlikely to proceed.

Who can forget the Star Casino incident? Namah apparently
Who can forget the Star Casino incident? Namah apparently

Absolutely nothing has been heard of the defamation cases he is allegedly prosecuting against the Sydney Morning Herald and the Samoa Observer, for example. Prime Minister O’Neill once said that all Namah had to offer PNG was his big mouth – and he should know.

Besides, PNGeans are less passionate about the issues surrounding the Centre than people in Australia where the subject is a political ‘hot potato’.

Finally, Dr Standish presents Don Polye, erstwhile Treasurer and current Opposition Leader, completely without context. Although Don Polye is quoted as saying “..our country is on the verge of kleptocracy,” Dr Standish fails to mention the many allegations and accusations attached to Polye himself that make Polye’s statement just a little ironically comical.

Who is Dr Bill Standish

The signing of the Treaty - including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, PNG Prime Minister, Michael Somare and Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke -Petersen
The signing of the PNG Treaty (Torres Strait Islands) part of the process of decolonization – including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, PNG Prime Minister, Michael Somare and Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke -Petersen

Dr Bill Standish is described as a ‘Researcher’ based in Canberra. The Development Policy Centre’s blog, for which he writes  describes him as a “Research Associate in the School of Culture, History and Language in the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific [who] has watched PNG politics closely for 45 years

It gives the reader a clue as to how, and from where, Dr Standish’s opinions have been formed (for surely he must have many after a 45-year study

Political paradigms are changing in Papua New Guinea and it’s not surprising that those who have had a long, arms-length relationship with the country may be uncomfortable with the current turn of political events. But Papua New Guinea has been a sovereign nation for forty years now and perhaps it is only right that the incumbent government should be ridding the country of the last vestiges of colonialism. Now it just remains to clear those vestiges from the minds of PNGeans too.

And in case you’re wondering, the irony of this writer also being a foreign political commentator hasn’t escaped her.

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Tall tales and true: Strategically yours

By Susan Merrell

I’m a journalist, people tell me things – lots of things. The information ranges from the factual to the fanciful and everything in between.
Some want to see justice done through the media, others just want their story told, while some try to use the media, through me, for mischievous purposes and for all sorts of reasons, including to make me appear foolish and gullible by publishing their lies.
So I’m cautious, but just occasionally a story is run past me that is so fantastical, so amusing that it would be a travesty not to share it.
However, I must caution the reader that the source of my source is “talk amongst politicians” meaning not even his sources are sure – so let’s call it a fairy tale for you to enjoy with your sandwich over lunch.

Who are these PNGeans? Paolo and Francesca, Bill and Hillary or ......
Who are these PNGeans? Paolo and Francesca, Bill and Hillary or ……

Once upon a time there were two high-ranking government officials who wanted to get married (let’s call them Bill and Hillary for ease of identification).

Well… actually… Bill desired the marriage, I’m not so sure about Hillary. So while I’m not saying for certain that she was less enthusiastic, she did seem to have little say in the process.

For both Bill and Hillary were married to other people, in fact, Bill had many wives. What’s more, while I’d like to tell you readers that they had fallen madly in love, (everyone loves a love story) – that’s not certain either.

Given their high-ranking positions it could have been convenience that was driving their desire (or rather – his desire) or it could be that the union would prove politically strategic for them both – a bit like the marital alliances that were forged in Europe long ago – I’m thinking here Louis the Sixteenth of France and Marie Antoinette daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor – (Yes, yes, I know, perhaps not the greatest example – I mean, didn’t that all end in tears? But that may just be how our story ends too.)

The marital status of Bill was no obstacle to their union – not in PNG – but Hillary’s could have been a real sticking point to the intended nuptials had it not been for the fact that in PNG high-ranking government officials have ‘means’ and, in PNG, women can be bought (or so it seems if you believe the “talk amongst politicians.”)

If you see a man with a brand new one of these in the company of a beautiful girl splashing around bundles of cash - please let me know
If you see a man with a brand new one of these in the company of a beautiful girl splashing around bundles of cash – please let me know

And that’s what purportedly happened: Hillary was traded by her then lawful husband for “…K2 million, a Toyota fully kitted 10 seater Landcruiser and a young beautiful lass from Central.”

So with everyone happy with their lot (I suppose)– the marriage took place between Bill and Hillary.

I’m sensing you are sceptical – I mean what did the “young beautiful lass from Central have to say about this and wouldn’t Hillary and her husband need to divorce first? – or is this just my western ethos spoiling a good story – because it gets better.

It seems that the union was indeed strategic and Bill is now using Hillary’s bank account to cover up questionable payments to even more government officials (in the six-figure range) in order to effect Bill’s (and perhaps Hillary’s too) strategic plans – whatever they be.

Purportedly these illegal payments have been made to the most unlikely of suspects. Social media darlings even – or so the legend goes.

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