When legal pragmatism wins over justice: A case analysis

By PNG Echo

This is the second in the series about violence against women in PNG. It was my intention to just tell the stories in all their horrific detail … alas, although I consider myself a storyteller, sometimes the academic in me will not be still. An analysis of the case outlined below is instructive on some of the problems that women face in PNG when looking for justice. Within that problem also lies the solution (or at least a part thereof.)   Read on:

The story:

Judge Manuhu, well-meaning but wrong.

A potential client went to see a young lawyer to complain that her husband was adulterous and wanted to take another wife. While I’m not sure with what she wanted him charged, the young lawyer did consider her case was clearly winnable.

Now, I know adultery is still on the statute books in PNG and I’m not sure about the polygamy laws and/or customs in the province in which she was residing at the time. It’s a fair assumption, though, that she wanted to stop her husband taking another wife.

Notwithstanding that she had a winnable case, this young lawyer dissuaded her from taking court action because winning in court would not stop her husband from beating her (a new piece of vital information) and there were the children to consider, he told her.

What a damning indictment of the efficacy of justice in PNG accompanied by an acceptance of a sick status quo.

Instead he gave her enough money to return to her home province but stipulated it must be alone and without taking any belongings or any of her children. Clearly this put her out of her husband’s reach. Problem solved?

No, no, no – it just exacerbated and further entrenched the customs of an unfair and unsafe society for women.

This lawyer’s solution represents pragmatism over justice and punishes the victim. I’m sure the young lawyer was well-meaning, BUT HE WAS WRONG.

The trouble is, this young lawyer grew up to become Justice George Manuhu of the National and Supreme Courts of Papua New Guinea and the learned judge has recently told this story to a public audience of thousands (available to millions) espousing the wisdom of the decision and exhorting others to take notice. With no juries in PNG, he now sits in sole judgment (in the first instance) on similar cases.

Why was he wrong?

  1. He was wrong because he knew that the wife was living with a violent man – yet he focussed on the victim rather than the perpetrator.
  2. She was the one punished by being banished, penniless, in the clothes she stood up in, back to her home province – yet she was the victim.
  3. He irresponsibly aided her to leave her children with a man he knew to be violent – what’s more, children whose mother abandons them suffer enormously – how would they know, at the time, that she had little choice?
  4. It was ignored that it left a miscreant living in the community who would possibly continue his violent ways because his illegal behaviour was never challenged – and it should have been – and by Manuhu. Removing the victim does nothing to curb the behaviour of the perpetrator who, in all probability, will just find another victim.

It was this lawyer’s job to prosecute alleged felons, not to find solutions that let off the offender scot free while penalising the victim. Perhaps he could have given her that one-way fare AFTER the courts had suitably punished the behaviour of the perpetrator, did he think of that?

It brings up the problem of the reluctance of anyone in PNG to tackle the problem of male perpetrated violence against females – or to even acknowledge it exists – except in the abstract. (I know, it is not the only problem that exists with violence but it is the predominant one and the one we are tackling here.)

The solution is for men to stop. It’s simple, really. Except who is going to make them?

When we have a system, in the main administered by men, (where are those women parliamentarians?) most of whom do their own share of wife-beating, according to recorded statistics, who’s going to stand up and point a finger and/or make a stand?

If the statistic of 70% (disputed, I know) is anywhere near the actuality, then we have around 78 parliamentarians who are perpetrators – and why would the judiciary be immune?

Apparently, the story has a happy ending for her: but the end does not justify the means and I find it alarming that the people who commented on the Jjudge’s post, to a wo/man, agreed with him. They were admiring – gushing even. No one had the wherewithal and the insight to say, “no, in this instance, you did not do well.”

Instead they said his story was:

“…inspiring”
“…the Manus way”
“…the ideal way to go”

and my all time favourite – which illustrates my next point perfectly

“…a worthy lesson for a lot of womenfolk.”

The lesson that I took away from the story is that the courts in PNG are all but useless to protect a woman that’s being brutalised and, in fact, they would prefer not to have to bother themselves with such a thing. Prosecuting a man on behalf of a woman would be anathema to many PNGeans – the women should take responsibility themselves (it’s probably their own fault).

I’m not at all surprised that commenters were sycophantic to Justice Manuhu. He is considered a PNG ‘Bik Man’ and the wisdom of a Bik Man is not to be questioned, just marvelled at.

With this one story, Justice Manuhu has set back the cause of beaten women in PNG and further entrenched the paradigms that keep her bruised and subdued.

Yet the perpetrator carried absolutely no responsibility – and that includes an obligation to obey the law – assault is against the law in PNG – yes, even assault on a woman (pardon my sarcasm – it’s hard to contain when I’m utterly disgusted).

Solution within the problem

How much more useful would it have been had the learned judge said something about the evil’s of bashing women? How much more useful if he had roundly condemned the man’s behaviour and said that the courts would not tolerate the flagrant breaking of the laws of the land? How much more useful would it have been if he had talked about zero tolerance in his court for perpetrators of violence against women – that should these miscreants be before him, that he’d throw the book at them? But did he? No he did not.

You ‘Bik Men’ know your word is gospel to those who look up to you – use it to solve the biggest problem you have in PNG today – or can we assume that you are part of the problem: a perpetrator yourself?

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Then she killed him.

By PNG Echo

PNG women in celebration mode

This is the first of a series of articles that seeks to give voice to the suffering of PNG women at the hands of PNG men. PNG women are NOT merely domestic violence statistics to be marvelled at and/or tut tutted over. Every one of these women or girls is a dignified human being who has had that dignity stripped away in often the most degrading, humiliating and horrific fashion. If the details of their stories hurt your sensibilities, I don’t apologise. Imagine what it felt like to go through some of their ordeals – like the ten-year-old recently gang-raped to death – all alone with her attackers. No one came to help – no one showed her any mercy. What about her sensibilities? And there are others… too many… Read on:

There was something not quite right about her.  Her eyes darted from one side to another like someone who was seeing things for the first time. It reminded me of my son’s birth. When first emerging into the world, he did similar.

But she looked vacant, far away, and when her eyes would inadvertently fall on my face she’d avert them quickly. Her demeanour was suggestive of someone suffering severe trauma.

I’m going to call her Yvonne. It is not her real name. Because her identity needs protecting, I am loath to use her real name. Yvonne is a person – more than a statistic – she ought to have a name.

She was not the first accused murderer I’d interviewed that day and she wouldn’t be the last. There was Nancy, Maggie, Sharon, Betty, Esther and more.  All of them had their own tales of horror, each of them increasingly difficult for me to listen to. I felt a heavy burden of privilege; the fortunate sister who’d abandoned them. I felt culpable – still do.

Yvonne endured 17 years of torture from her husband before she ended up killing him. In that time he raped her continually and kept her a virtual prisoner in the house. Yvonne’s husband had an untreated venereal disease, possibly Gonorrhoea – he repeatedly passed this on to her and would only allow her to go and get it treated when it became urgent.

Like the time when her tongue swelled up so badly that she could not swallow. There were often times when the infection got so bad that she would develop chronic urine leakage and she told me that she smelled bad.

Yvonne’s husband would not only rape her vaginally but anally and orally. She didn’t understand why he wanted to use places that “were not meant for that” She said she would cry in pain during the violent bouts of anal sex. But it had little effect.

Apart from the rapes, there were also the beatings. He broke her arm with the branch of a tree; he broke her back and almost broke her neck by standing on it. Yet no one helped her- and she had tried police, the church, family and whatever friends she had left.  He was a respected member of the community and she was his wife – the suggestion that if she were a better wife it wouldn’t happen was always just below the surface.  She was unable to leave him – in PNG it’s difficult or often impossible for a woman to exist alone, without the sponsorship of a man.

When she was at the end of her tether, she decided to end her own life – 17 years of despair were enough. Her life had become not worth living, she told me.

With her husband asleep in the house, and in a moment of lucidity, she decided that she would take him with her – that he didn’t deserve to live. She stabbed him then ran out of the house and deliberately fell on the knife– it penetrated her breastbone. She had already taken all and any medication she had found in the house – still,  he died, she didn’t. She showed me her scar.

“I was his victim for 17 years,” Yvonne said. “Now I’m a victim of the state of PNG for the next 20 (her sentence).

I now better understood why Yvonne appeared so fragile.

Anomalies and indications

Inside Bomana Prison

It was March of 2012 and I was in Bomana Prison, outside the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby, to do a story on women who had murdered their husbands. At the time, the female prison was housing 38 women, all but one or two were there for murder – either in remand waiting for their day in court or already serving a sentence.

This fact, in some ways, is anomalous with global findings, while, at the same time, in other ways, being indicative of them. It is anomalous that such a high percentage of the accused and convicted were there because of committing a violent crime. Violent crime only accounts for a low percentage of crimes committed by females – around 10%.

However, it has also been found that women invariably kill an intimate partner, family member or an acquaintance, in the home – with a spouse most likely to be killed in around 50% or more of cases. In this they were consistent

Violent offenders were over-represented in this milieu while their victims were not.

Justice for women in PNG? – Where are the findings of justifiable homicide?

The clear reason for the anomaly was the presence of extremely high rates of sexual and domestic violence in PNG, these factors being the major cause of creating violent female offenders from otherwise gentle individuals. It was kill or be killed in so many cases – but in a society such as PNG where violence against women is prevalent and even normalised, there was little hope that their plight would get much public sympathy – or indeed judicial justice.

There was a recent case in PNG where a fight between a woman and her spouse resulted in his death because one of her blows ruptured his spleen. The judge gave her a heavy custodial sentence, notwithstanding that there was a long history of domestic violence where she had been hospitalized by him on more than a few occasions and could have expected more that day had her blow not proved fatal. What’s more, many of the beatings she received were while pregnant.

The escalation of the problem to killing was the direct result of her having to defend herself because no one else would.

A surprisingly nice environment  

This was not the first prison I’d been inside, but to my surprise, this one was almost pleasant – especially when contrasted against downtown (or uptown) Port Moresby. It was a series of buildings amongst well-tended gardens with shelters here and there for shade. There seemed to be less evidence of razor wire and armed guards than there was around expatriate compounds and five-star hotels in the nearby capital.

Even surrounded by accused and convicted murderers, never did I feel any fear. The women, were generally, softly spoken, and pleasant. Most were eager to talk – to tell their story. In every case, the killing was preceded by a history of domestic violence.

What came through loud and clear was how the perpetrators of the violence (Men) had completely stripped these women of all their dignity and if they were to avoid prison, the courts would tear a few more strips of dignity off as the victims justified the course that most were forced to take.

They carried the scars of their torment

Many of the women had been raped by their husbands often while children looked on, sexual humiliation being a usual weapon in the wife basher’s arsenal.

As with Nancy, who had killed her gambling, drug-head husband who bashed her up regularly.

Nancy had borrowed money to survive, as her husband was not providing any. He exhorted her to pay back the money by taking up prostitution. Nancy’s husband sold her baby to another woman.

When Nancy killed him, it was self-defence. She feared for her life. “I just wanted him to stop hitting me,” she said.  Nancy claimed, that in spite of all this, she loved him and didn’t engage the police because he was the sole provider. The irony completely lost on her; the hopelessness of the situation leaving me dumbfounded.

One young inmate with a baby on her lap, told me of how her husband’s nephew would visit and rape her. When she complained to her husband he laughed. She ended up killing the nephew – but not until he had cracked open her skull with a bushknife and burned down her house. When he came back the day after the burning armed with a knife and started hitting her again, she managed to get the knife from him and stabbed him with it. Dead.

Other causal factors 

The  paradigm beloved of TV shows and Hollywood where jail wardens are cruel sadists was not anywhere in evidence in the women’s section of Bomana.  In the main, the wardens seemed to have a clear understanding of the reason for their wards incarceration and seemed sympathetic. With the prevalence of violence against women in PNG, many of them could well have been empathetic too, suffering similarly. Who knows?

What they all agreed upon was that polygamy was one of the major contributing factors.

That was certainly true in the case of Brenda who said that her husband would beat her up first when he wanted to go and see another woman. He was not polygamous but adulterous and with an unhealthy dose of religious guilt under his belt, this is how he’d cope with the affairs.

But it doesn’t matter whether it’s adultery or polygamy, it’s all about competition and economics. Not only is the partner humiliated by her ‘man’ preferring another, she also has the problem of the husband’s monetary resources going to another family and her family being starved.

It is why Brenda ended up killing her husband’s girlfriend during a fight. She explained that it was the easier option – her husband was too strong physically for her and besides, she needed him to earn money to keep her family.

When Sally’s husband turned up with a new wife, he took all Sally’s belongings and he gave them to his new wife. When he then stopped paying their children’s school fees, Sally ended up killing the rival for her husband’s affections and money. But this was not before her husband had held Sally down while the new wife urinated into her mouth. Sally said that killing the new wife was the easier road to take as she was afraid of the husband’s family and the compensation she’d have to pay to them in the event of his death (compensation being a large feature of PNGean customary law).

In PNG, it is not rare to see two women physically fighting in the street over a man while the man in question looks on.

With this rivalry rife and encouraged, both by polygamy and rampant adultery, there is very little evidence of a ‘sisterhood’ support network, most women viewing other women as rivals.

The system is broken, it needs to be fixed.

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National Chauvinism: Lest we forget.

National chauvinism is an aggressive patriotism that is often displayed when countries are at war.  Lately it is raising its ugly head – even in peace time.
Writes PNG Echo

Once a jolly swagman…

Australia, yesterday, celebrated ANZAC Day and the battle on the peninsular of Gallipoli during the First World War where it is said Australia gained nationhood.

It was celebrated royally all over the nation with large enthusiastic turnouts for dawn services and marches even though the surviving Diggers of the Gallipoli campaign have all since passed on.

In contrast, by the late 1970s, when there were many surviving diggers of that campaign, the celebration of ANZAC Day had all but died in Australia. It was revived in the 1990s.  Some say that it was not an organic revival but a manufactured one.

Ironically, Eric Bogle who wrote his ballad in 1971 “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” that has become the unofficial anthem of Anzac Day, did not glorify what happened in Gallipoli, nor the way it was being remembered – but condemns it. His hero asks:

And the young people ask me, “what are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question.

It begs the question of whether the revival of the popularity of ANZAC Day has been a forerunner of a worrying global trend promoted by vested interests – national chauvinism?

For the ANZAC tradition commemorates a war where 56,639 Australia males between the ages of 18-44 died. Fully, 65% of Australian recruits were casualties – the highest rate in the British army.
One commentator has written:

“…perhaps the bravest thing the ANZACs could have done at Gallipoli in April 1915 would have been to mutiny.”

There’s no doubt that Australian troops were regarded by the British as cannon fodder and the Australian Military Commanders facilitated the senseless slaughter of their own – they must have known. Where’s the glory in that?

Bogle sings:

How well I remember that terrible day
When the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He showered us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia

As poignantly sad as the whole of Bogle’s ode to the ANZACs is, for me, it is the chorus that is the most chilling as he juxtaposes the band playing Waltzing Matilda – a sign of patriotism – against first, the anticipation; then the horror of what was waiting for the conscripts (and those that had enthusiastically joined up of their free will) and finally their ignominious, desperately sad and inglorious return.

And still the band played Waltzing Matilda…  is a perfect illustration of the insensitivity of rampant patriotism and its deadly bounty.

But do we never learn?

National chauvinism, globally, is running rampant – Trump, the resurrection of Pauline Hanson in Australia, Brexit and in a few days time maybe the success of Marine Le Pen, in France.  Le Pen, like Trump has, in gentler times, been considered part of the political loony fringe – her party a marginal player.  Not any more.

How many casualties do we need before the band stops playing Waltzing Matilda?  When will we realise that when we kill or stand by and watch (nay, condone) suffering (as in Australia’s atrocious treatment of refugees) and we claim to do it  “For God and Country” it is far from glorious.  It is blasphemy.

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History has lessons for the Anti-Violence-Against-Women Movement in PNG

By PNG Echo

For women in Papua New Guinea, this week has been variable. There have been both lows and highs.

The good news is that the Strategic Plan to combat violence against women, which is a comprehensive document that understands the need for long-term planning, has been endorsed by the parliamentary National Executive Council (NEC) which is a huge first step in a long journey.

The bad news is that it took the mutilation of a 19-year-old woman who had both her legs chopped off by a jealous husband to wake the relevant department from its reverie (it had had the completed proposal for 15 months, languishing and gathering dust) aided by political pressure from the Governor of the NCDC, Powes Parkop backed by protesting women.

The women rally for the cause.

Worst news is that in the interim, between acceptance and implementation, the violence is not over – it continues unabated. The problem needs a band-aid solution immediately while the wheels of progress grind slowly that bring in the more comprehensive set of goals

Because just a few days after the NEC ratified the document the newspapers told of a 12-year-old girl (in fact three girls/women – I don’t know the age of the other two) who were gang raped by 50 men over two days before they were released.

But what is most shocking to me is that none of the established women’s groups in Papua New Guinea had been moved enough by the leg amputation incident to voice their horror and disgust until the ‘wait meri’ did – informed by yet another ‘wait meri.’.

And when it looked like some positive action may come of the agitation, only then did many come to the fore.

This does not augur well for the future.

You see, one of the leading women’s organisations claimed ‘enough is enough’ back four years ago when Kepari Leniata was burned alive after being tortured – but it just wasn’t, was it?  In those four years, enough has not been even nearly enough and when the report hit the newspapers of this recent shocking incident (the leg amputations) where were they?

If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance then where too were the raised voices of PNG’s women’s movements when the next shocking rape incident was reported nationally, so close to the first – just yesterday.

History informs us that nothing is given to women easily and if the struggle to live without fear is to become a reality for PNG women then the women’s movements cannot let up on the pressure. They need to be constantly vigilant.

Each and every atrocity must be forcefully and loudly condemned.

It’s a tall order, I know – but it’s the eternal vigilance needed to effect the desired change. If the current leaders and members of the women’s movement are not prepared to do this, they need to pass the baton, graciously, on to someone who is.

What’s more, the women’s movements need to decide what they are really about – there are many worthy causes and so many women’s movements have been co-opted to those supplementary causes to their own detriment.

In many developing countries and former colonies, for instance, the race issue has overshadowed the women’s issues – and that certainly happened on December 16 in Port Moresby where racism was both palpable and rife – and perpetrated by some (not all) women against other women.

Fazilah Basari – organiser.

In fact, a woman who had done all the hard yards organising the protest was effectively sidelined – she was Indian and hence as unworthy as the wait meri. They should have been embraced as women but they were shunned because of their race.

This is unforgivable in a movement that’s all about opposition to abuse of women.

All women understand fear of male-perpetrated violence. Besides, in PNG there are many ‘wait meris’ and women of all ethnicities attacked by men – all women are vulnerable.

What’s more, while it is desirable to have the backing of men in this struggle – it must not become a ‘man’s issue.’

I was alarmed when a speaker at the press conference that preceded the 16 December rally by a couple of days spoke of the rape of males. Now while this is terrible, it is not within the purview of the women’s movement. By all means, start another movement to combat this because while it may seem interrelated, so is every issue in one way or another and the movement is there to curb the violence against women – the far greater of the two evils.

If we, in the women’s movement, have learned anything from history it is that the struggle will neither be won by a half-hearted effort nor by ostracising some committed women because they are the wrong colour.

Nor indeed will it be won by letting any extraneous issues co-opt and derail the goals.

Leaders of these movements have a grave responsibility because if they drop the ball it will be more likely that another woman will be beaten, maimed, mutilated or killed. I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

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Koim: It’s crying time again – Case dismissed

By PNG Echo

13343079_1719514234955147_3481714574178322515_nJust hours ago, the National Court of Papua New Guinea handed down its decision on the Judicial Review of the disbanding of the Taskforce Sweep brought by Chairman Sam Koim.

The court found for the Prime Minister, NEC, Attorney General and Independent State of Papua New Guinea, represented by Mal Varitimos, Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr and Nicolas Tame, and against Koim on all counts except the defense objection as to the competency of the plaintiff’s proceedings.

As the judgment found that the court did not have power to review the NEC’s decision to disband the agency and that the plaintiff had no standing to commence the proceedings even if it had, the objection as to the competency of the proceedings became redundant, anyway.

Koim’s arguments to the contrary were dismissed as not being established.

Makail’s summary

The proceedings will be dismissed on the grounds that first, the decisions in question are not reviewable. Secondly, even if they were, the requirements of natural justice did not apply. Thirdly, bias and bad faith have not been established, so as, unreasonableness. A further ground for dismissal is that the plaintiff lacked requisite standing to commence these proceedings. The objection to the competency of these proceedings was dismissed.

Writer’s comment

Justice Makail is a judge that has created the perception that he is firmly on the side of Koim and his cronies by the number of cases where he has found for them that have been overturned on appeal. Yet, he could not find any sound legal reasons to accept Koim’s arguments for his continued employment and the continuation of Taskforce Sweep.

The executive government is the body mandated to make these sort of decisions, not the judiciary, as Justice Makail so rightly pointed out in his judgment.

In my opinion, Sam Koim was promoted to a position way above his competency level – and I have written about the reasons for my opinion on many occasions. He should have accepted the decision to disband the agency and do away with his services with grace and dignity – not taken up the court’s time in a matter that should never have been before it.  He has been pandering to his own bruised ego like a jilted cuckold.

 

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The curious decisions of Justice Makail.

By PNG Echo

Justice Derek Hartshorn - one of the three Supreme Court Judges that overturned Justice Makail's decision today
Justice Derek Hartshorn – one of the three Supreme Court Judges that overturned Justice Makail’s decision today

When earlier today, a three-man bench of the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a National Court decision by Justice Colin Makail to join Police officers Gitua and Damaru to the judicial review of Chief Magistrate, Nerrie Eliakim’s decision to grant an arrest warrant against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, in their judgment they raised a very good question.

 

…that a police officer wishes to execute an arrest warrant against the wishes or orders of the Police Commissioner raises issues as to why that Police Officer is of that view and believes he has such a particular interest in executing the warrant that he seeks court enforcement, against the position taken by the Police Commissioner.

Why do these maverick police officers think they can go over the head of their boss and appeal directly to the courts? Could it have something to do with their success when Justice Makail is the sitting judge – buoying them: encouraging their rogue tendencies?

Well…in journalism, we consider once to be an isolated incident, two times a coincidence but have it happen three times, and that’s a trend.

There are four instances that I’d like to highlight – I’ve called them ‘The curious decisions of Justice Makail’. There may be more than four, I may have missed some – if I have feel free to point them out.

Supreme Court says – noooo.

Justices of the Supreme and National Courts
Justices of the Supreme and National Courts

We’ve already looked briefly at yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that found that Justice Makail was wrong and had fallen into error when finding for Damaru and Gitua. His judgment was quashed.

And it’s not the first time lately, is it?

Back in July, the Supreme Court also set aside Makail’s decision in the National Court that dismissed Attorney General Ano Pala’s petition.  Makail said Pala had no standing to bring proceedings challenging the validity of an arrest warrant until after he was arrested.

Justice Makail, that’s ridiculous!

There would be no point in trying to stop the arrest if it had already happened, now would there? That’s shouldn’t be too hard for a Justice of the PNG courts to understand, should it?

Luckily, the Supreme Court judges did not have the same conceptual deficit and quashed the arrest also commenting that:

None of the grounds for considering the arrest referred to…could reasonably have been believed to justify the arrest of the applicant.

The police officer who had had the arrest warrant sworn out was ….drum roll…wait for it…Matthew Damaru.

Is Justice Makail so mesmerised by Damaru that he cannot see what other Judges clearly can?

Seems the Supreme Court doesn’t think much of his judgments and I must say I find them …well…curious too.

A trip down memory lane – two more (but who’s counting?)

Sam Koim - playing for time?
Sam Koim – playing for time?

Cast your minds back to March to the time after Sam Koim took out a full-page advertisement in the newspaper allegedly in contempt of a court order stopping him talking to the press.

In the National Court, when this and Koim’s substantive case concerning the status of Task Force Sweep was up for mention, Justice Makail, on adjourning both, decided that the substantive case should be heard first.

What the…?

Justice Makail seems to have a lot of trouble with sequencing. He’s put the cart before the horse again.

If the contempt is found to be proven and egregious enough then it could (and some would argue ‘should’) have the case thrown out. You don’t need to know the law – you just need to be blessed with a modicum of common sense.

Justice Makail, has done Koim a huge favour, removing one of the obstacles to his case. In the meantime He’s made himself look ridiculous (there’s that word again)– but that doesn’t seem to worry the good Judge as he errs in ways that a layperson who watches “Law and Order’ regularly  wouldn’t.

And it’s for the same faction he subsequently favoured in his error-ridden judgments – in this case Damaru and Gitua’s little mate, Sam Koim.

And ironically, while Makail has no sympathy for the physical harm done to Lawyer Tiffany Twivey, back in April, after being manhandled and held in appalling conditions by policemen acting on behalf of Damaru and Gitua – before she was charged, for Sam Koim’s lack of preparedness he has all the patience in the world.

Even armed with a doctor’s certificate detailing the injuries Twivey had received, Justice Makail, would not entertain her request for a week’s adjournment and gave her just a day saying that the case was of national importance and needed to go ahead. (It was the substantive case of Task Force Sweep).

That it clashed with her appearance in court with her own case was not just serendipity – although it was that too – it was just too convenient for Koim to think could be anything but contrived.  With the action of his mates, Damaru and Gitua, Koim avoided the witness stand – and continues to do so.

Ironically, at the same time, Justice Makail agreed to adjourn the case on the request of Sam Koim because Koim was not prepared.

NOT PREPARED?

This is possibly the most important case of his life – and he wasn’t prepared?  How much time does he need?

Half a year, apparently.

Since that day, Justice Makail has entertained Koim’s requests for adjournments another three times that I’ve counted. – with Koim still making all sorts of specious excuses about why he’s not prepared – most involving his representation and Justice Makail buying them all and indulging him.

The case is currently listed for a ‘status hearing’ on 5 October. Why? Why isn’t the case just going to trial?

Justice Makail agreed to give Twivey one day’s adjournment but has given Koim 6 months. Does that sound balanced to you?

Makes you wonder what Koim is playing at and why Makail is facilitating it, doesn’t it?

Playing for time

Sam Koim leaves the Waigani court - with his illegal counsel
Sam Koim leaves the Waigani court – with his illegal counsel

The truth of the matter is that the substantive case was ready to be heard back in April. All the affidavits have been filed – the evidence has been collected and distributed – all neatly in ring binders.

Koim’s been dragging out this case. Why?

October 20th is the date when all public servants contesting the election have to resign, isn’t it?  Hands up who thinks Koim will throw his hat in the ring? All of you? Oh, OK.

It’s not long until then, is it?

Supposing Koim can hold off this case until then, he can resign from his position (a bit of a joke, under the circumstances -but stay with me here) – he then tells the court that, not being the Chairman of Task Force Sweep, he doesn’t have any standing in the case anymore. He withdraws and the case collapses.

What a great outcome for Koim that would be!

Because, there is nothing surer than Koim will not step down from the witness stand smelling of roses if Twivey can get him in there to be cross-examined.  Makail is thwarting that by granting all the adjournments.

I think Koim has an urgent need to avoid that witness stand, at any cost.   I mean, if he’s going to stand for election, that’s not what he wants his constituents to remember – the day, with his hand on the Bible, that he was forced to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help him, God. The day his halo may have slipped and be choking him.

Mind you, with Makail hearing the case, I doubt that Koim would lose, precedents suggest that – but that’s OK, his judgment is likely to be overturned on appeal (those precedents again)

Now, I may be completely barking up the wrong tree, but just in case, and, as you’ve said, Justice Makail, this is a case of National importance, so be as punitive with Koim as you were with Twivey. Give him a day. Start hearing the substantive matter on October 6.

Waddyasay, hey?

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Freedom and the pursuit of happiness are basic human (not just men’s) rights

By PNG Echo

I was appalled and concerned to wake up this morning to Post Courier front-page headlines: ‘Aussie stole my wife’.

Mr John Kundil Goimba
Mr John Kundil Goimba

Firstly, the story is not news – Mr Goimba’s story has had a considerable airing over the years on various blogs that will mindlessly publish anything.

None, to my knowledge have ever questioned the paradigm that Mr Goimba is entitled to have his wife back – even if it would be, clearly, against her will.  Although, I would have expected better standards of analysis and social responsibility of Post Courier.

This is a long-running domestic saga where Mr. Goimba has been trying to manipulate a positive outcome, for himself, for, at least, six years – which is getting his wife sent back to him – as if she’s his possession that he has a right to.

It’s become an obsession – and it shouldn’t be encouraged by front-page, uncritical headlines.

Over two or three years, I have been given this story many times, quite possibly by Mr. Goimba himself – but who can remember, it happened so long ago.

I declined to publish every time because the issues that Mr Goimba wishes to pursue are so mindboggingly twisted – his sense of entitlement to another human being so very warped and, sadly, so symptomatic of PNGs problem with domestic violence.

Australian protection

Fact: Mr Goimba, no one “stole” your wife. Your wife has left you. That she has never attempted to get in touch with either yourself or her children since she initially fled suggests she had some compelling reasons to do so.

As it’s only a select few that are privy to her reasons, including the Australian Refugee Panel, one can only guess at them.

But let’s be logical here. “A loving wife” (Mr Goimba did not call himself a loving husband) does not leave a marriage and children for nothing and seek a protection visa overseas. It’s hardly likely that she was kidnapped by Australians, is it?

At the very worse, she is an unhappy but calculating woman who has manipulated the Australian authorities to grant her a protection visa for her own selfish reasons – maybe in order to find herself a better life.

But the chances of this scenario are negligible.

Any PNGean who has ever tried to obtain any sort of visa from Australian authorities will attest to the rigor of the process. Many complain that the process is unreasonably onerous. What’s more, with the refugee situation in Australia being a political hot potato, there is no way that this woman’s claim would not have been minutely scrutinized before the visa was granted.

So, chances are she has a genuine claim.

Australia is a signatory to the International Convention on Refugees that explicitly outlaws “refoulement” or repatriation to a country where the refugee’s life is in danger. This is likely the scenario that the Panel found.

Consequences of an unresaonable sense of entitlement

Either way, this woman patently does not want is to be married any more to you, Mr Goimba. And she is entitled to both her freedom and her pursuit of happiness – as a human being not as a chattel of you, her rejected husband.

To have pursued this matter so vigorously, without giving up in six years, I find frightening.

This puts Mr Goimba in the ‘stalker’ category, by any reasonable measure and his behaviour would, by now, be ringing many alarm bells with people who deal with domestic violence on a day-to-day basis.  He’s clearly obsessed.

The attitude: she’s mine, I want her, she has to stay put, or else is a very dangerous one for the women involved.

I mean, what does Mr Goimba intend to do with his reluctant spouse if she is made to return to him? Will he hold her captive? Will he assault and murder her if she tries to leave him, again?

Because this is what this sense of entitlement often leads to – the statistics of the occurrence of the murder of a female by her intimate partner or former partner are frightening in Australia, who knows what would be found in PNG if statistics were kept?

Mr Gomba, you need to accept that your wife was, at the very least, unhappy being your wife and was wishing for her freedom. That’s not a crime. What is criminal is that you are trying to demonize the Australian authorities that have given your wife protection – most likely from you.

All women and indeed human beings have the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness – Mr Goimba, you need to respect that is what your former wife is pursuing – without you.

Post Courier – wake up to your ethical and journalistic responsibilities

Post Courier should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of analysis concerning this matter.

Presenting the story, on the front page, as if the complainant has a genuine gripe against the Australian authorities when, in this instance, they are merely fulfilling their international obligations under the refugee convention is unconscionable.

Post Courier by their tacit sympathy with Mr Goimba’s plight to have his wife returned just perpetuates the attitudes that keep many women subjugated, beaten and broken in a society where many believe there is not a lot wrong with that. She is not a human being, but a possession.

You are feeding Mr. Goimba’s obsession and that’s, at the very least, cruel.

Could it be that some PNG men see that their unhappy wives and partners have now identified a viable road to freedom and they want the pathway blocked lest it upset the very favourable-to-men status quo?

Why is Post Courier uncritically aiding and abetting this agenda?

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PNG Power: Where’s the money (part two)

By PNG Echo.

The Fraud Squad is either grossly incompetent or corrupt – there is no third way.

The ineffective and ineffectual heads of the Fraud Squad
The ineffective and ineffectual heads of the Fraud Squad

companies related to Mr Tangit [CEO of PNG Power Ltd (PPL)]and his close relatives have received payment of K16 million from from PPL. Combined with the K15 million received from both the [East Sepik] Provincial (K10 million) and [Angoram] District Government (K5 million), it appears that Mr. Tangit and his close relatives have received K31 million through various entities for the period, 19 February 2009 to 30 September 2015.

As CEO of PPL, this represents a serious conflict of interests, even if that were all there was to it – but it’s not – the money has all been paid out, but as of October 2015 there was no evidence of even the commencement of the project referred to anywhere.

Highly confidential (and why’s that?)

The above quote was taken from a 35-page report marked ‘HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL’ of which I am in receipt.

It was commissioned as a result of questions being asked in parliament as to why, when funds had been allocated and deposited by Members of Parliament into the coffers of PPL for the Rural Electrification Project (RE Project), these projects were not completed, were behind schedule or significantly over budget. It was the July 2015 session of parliament.

In response, on 15 September, 2015, the Minister then responsible, Hon Ben Micah along with Mr Garry Hersey Managing Director (MD) and Chief executive officer (CEO) of the IPBC and Mr John Mangos, then Executive Director of PPL engaged an Australian forensic investigation company to look into allegations of corporate impropriety at PPL.

Déjà Vu

I have read this report in detail, with a pervasive feeling of déjà vu: I’ve heard it all before: it was in different times and different places but a very familiar modus operandi.

It evokes the non-existent Wasa Bridge in Kandep, associated with Don Polye and the non-existent community colleges – a fraud for which the Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare and certain members of his family have been implicated in the Singapore courts.

Coincidentally (or not?), the RE [non] Project also involves the Somares as the project was to be undertaken in the district of Angoram (Arthur Somare’s seat at the time) and involved the East Sepik Provincial Government.

The Angoram RE Project

It is the K15 million paid out to two contractors to which the report dedicates much investigation.

K10 million was from the coffers of East Sepik Administration that had been deposited by Sir Michael Somare into that account (it is not stipulated under what authority and from whence it came but the K10 million was earmarked for the project) and over K5 million that was received by the contractor from the Angoram District Administration for alleged variations to this non-existent project of which the investigators admitted finding no evidence  (and they looked)

The K10 million remained with the Provincial Government until the contracts to carry out the project were awarded and then it was transferred to PPL.

The report highlights the gross abuses of process that allowed vested interests to win the tendering process and commandeer the project without fulfilling the contract.

The tendering process

Implicated in just about everything – is John Tangit CEO of PNG Power whose ‘wantoks’ were the proprietors of the companies that won the four-part Angoram RE Project – three parts to PNG Engineering – the registered owner being Mr Richard Pii, brother-in-law of John Tangit and one part to Sepik Metal the registered owner being Mr Patrick Wolly Tangit, the brother of John Tangit.

john-tangit-ceo-png-power
John Tangit, erstwhile CEO of PNG Power Ltd.

The investigation team found evidence of John Tangit’s direct involvement with the tendering process on his desktop computer.

What’s more, these two companies seemed to have been made aware of the exact amount of money allocated for the project and their estimates coincided exactly (similar to insider trading). The three-parts of the project for which PNG Engineering won the tender were split into K3 million each, notwithstanding the very different parameters of each individual part. In other words the tender was neither accurate nor competent.

Further to the questionable estimates of PNG Engineering, the investigation teams noticed an assessment of 15/15 that had been awarded by the tenders’ assessment team to PNG Engineering for experience, a ridiculous score when the company was only five months old.

As for Sepik Metal, the other successful tenderer, they did not even gain the highest score in the assessment but got the contract because they came in exactly on budget – a little insider knowledge goes a long way.

As such, it could not be confidently asserted that either of these two companies were the best companies for the job regardless of conflicts of interest.

What’s more, on digging deeper into these two companies and their affiliates, many more links of John Tangit’s pecuniary involvement were uncovered.

John Tangit has been much more brazen even than Don Polye was when he awarded the Wasa Bridge contract to a crony – at least he didn’t ostensibly hand the contract to himself.

There’s nothing new here

Of the three issues, Wasa Bridge, Community Colleges and now the Angoram RE Project, there is nothing new.

In Kandep, an estimate K71 million has been allocated to the project and the contractors – and no bridge.

In 17 districts of PNG a whopping K156 million has been allocated and spent – and not one Community College to show for it. (“Leave the Grand Chief alone – he’s the Father of the nation,” you say– where’s that ironic font?)

In comparison, the K31 million gone missing from the Angoram RE Project is a mere bagatelle but a huge amount none the less in any context, but especially in one where many people exist on a couple of kina a day and women still die in childbirth at alarming rates through lack of governmental services (maybe in Angoram it’s from lack of electricity.)

This was brutally brought home to me recently when I heard that there was a drive to vaccinate potential mothers in PNG against tetanus. What on earth for?

In my world, tetanus is not considered a risk factor for birthing mothers. But it is where mothers habitually give birth on the ground in the dust and the dirt or the mud and the filth.

Yet here we are – talking of K31 million as if it were nothing – because everything is relative and the relationship of various acts of thievery is regularly and usually counted in millions in PNG.

To date, no one has found a way or a will to successfully prosecute these crimes. Why not?

Inadequacy of the agencies of the state.

For a journalist, once is an incident, twice is suspect and by the third time, it’s a trend.  And this mode of corruption is quite the trend in PNG. Yet it’s brazen, and not even particularly sophisticated.

What’s more, in two of these cases, there has either been a very competent Singapore court (Community Colleges) that has done the hard investigative work or a thorough investigation by a reputable independent investigator (Angoram RE Project).  As for the Wasa Bridge, if the authorities wanted some evidence of where to look – they could do worse than start with PNG Echo’s own investigation.

Yet it doesn’t happen, does it?  Why not?

If the agencies of the state, and the state itself, cannot recognise this brazen and obvious trend and put in place ways to successfully prevent and prosecute the crimes, then the agencies are either incompetent or corrupt themselves.

I find it hard to believe that in the PNG Power saga ,all Fraud Squad’s energies were put into prosecuting John Mangos for alleged visa infringements and an alleged K62,000 for which there was no viable evidence – Mangos would argue that it doesn’t exist – yet with all the credible evidence available to them – nothing has been done on the missing millions.

I re-iterate – the Fraud Squad is either grossly incompetent or corrupt – there is no third way.

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The PNG Power saga (Part 1)

By PNG Echo

It has been difficult to unravel the many and varied thrusts and counter thrusts of the cases of John Mangos and John Tangit when they were both working at PNG Power Ltd (PPL). So, perhaps it’s best to start with the current state of play and work backwards.

b57ded_30ee39e57f0c419497561345ba026257-jpg_srz_233_350_85_22_0-50_1-20_0
John Mangos

John Mangos was charged twice with various offences, firstly relating to his employment contract with PPL and secondly with the allegedly illegal payment to a third party amounting to K62,000. Neither raft of charges got past a committal hearing where the both were found to be lacking in evidence. They were thrown out. Mangos is no longer with PPL.

tangit-1-1
John Tangit

John Tangit, having been stood down then reinstated, only to be terminated and who is implicated in corruption amounting to millions of dollars (by an independent investigation commissioned by Kumul Holdings and undertaken by a reputable Australian firm of investigators) is now back as at PPL (unconfirmed) having faced no criminal charges whatsoever – scot free – for now.  How can this be?

From this information alone, it is reasonable to assume that the charges against Mangos were specious – and that’s certainly what the courts found when they threw them out.

Matthew Damaru
Matthew Damaru

It was Tangit that was the informant who commenced the second raft of charges against Mangos in a letter at the beginning of March this year, that he copied to various people, including the then appropriate Minister Hon William Duma, Paul Nerau, Chairman Kumul Holdings and Fraud Squad officer, Matthew Damaru – that stalwart supporter and enforcer to Sam Koim and the Task Force Sweep team.

So what would have precipitated this malicious and abortive prosecution?

Why would these Fraud Squad officers, who are lauded as exemplary and expert investigators by many, instigate proceedings against someone with so little and such flimsy evidence?

Sam Koim
Sam Koim

It just could be because the perception of integrity and competency is, in reality…well…just perception. The competency and the motivations of these officers has been seriously impugned by the fact that they, along with Sam Koim’s Task Force Sweep, have lost up to 50% of their cases at committal.  Is this incompetence or something far more sinister – because it is either one or the other, there is no third way.

It seems the malicious litigation against Mangos was all to do with the findings of the abovementioned commissioned investigation that Mangos, as Director of PPL, was about to act on.

You see, the Mangos’ arrest and charges strikes a familiar chord – there is a precedent . It has all the hallmarks of a pre-emptive strike to suppress information becoming public – as surely as the ‘arrest’ of Tiffany Twivey was.

NEXT PART: What Tangit did and how did he get away with it?  The case against John Tangit

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Paga Hill – Koim’s complicity

By PNG Echo

Paga Hill residents in the rubble that was their homes
Paga Hill residents in the rubble that was their homes

Who can forget the mayhem and the abject misery as the bulldozers rolled onto Paga Hill and razed the houses and shelters of a long-established community – albeit a settlement.

Women were screaming, men were shouting but to no avail.

The police had been deployed to keep them in line; to keep the way clear for the bulldozing contractors to ply their heartless trade.

I remember a valiant Dame Carol Kidu standing in front of bulldozers trying to stop them only to be manhandled out of the way by the police. Her standing in the community meant nothing. These men had their orders and come hell or high water, they were going to carry them out.

Dame carol valiantly tries to get through the police cordon.
Dame carol valiantly tries to get through the human cordon.

This land now belonged to a foreign developer – and he had gotten ample assistance to stake his questionable claim, seemingly from all quarters – including some that will surprise you.

For Task-Force Sweep, under the direction of Sam Koim, had been arguably in a position to stop the purchase of the land by this foreign investor – but instead, they tacitly endorsed it.

International scrutiny.

It has been exactly a year (to the day) that I published the details of 57-page report of Dr Kristian Lasslett from the International State Crime Initiative see article here on the subject of Paga Hill.

In the report, Lasslett made a scathing attack on Task Force Sweep and Sam Koim saying that their assessment (which exonerated the developer – although other inquiries had not), had errors that were “seismic” and “can’t be put down to mere ignorance or inexperience.” Clearly he was suggesting corruption.

But in a new document to hand, he goes further.

In a letter from the International State Crime Initiative in November 2015 to the National Executive Council, Dr Lasslett says that Mr Fridrikssen (the proposed developer of Paga Hill) told his colleagues during an interview that “friends” inside Task Force Sweep had tipped him off to their investigation.

ist-page-letter-to-nec-16-november-2015letter-to-nec-16-november-2015It seems to me that Fridrikssen needn’t have worried because, to sum up Dr Lasslett’s expert opinion formed as the result of the agency’s thorough investigation:  Task Force Sweep’s investigation of the matter was at best, incompetent and at worst (and the indications are there) corrupt.

He goes on to warn of the

unsuitability of current Task Force Sweep management for any leadership position within the proposed Independent Commission Against Corruption.

To my knowledge, the NEC has taken no action on this matter although I’m sure the findings of Dr Laslett’s extensive report would be made readily available to them.

The Paga Hill development is in partnership with the government of PNG, I’m told

The Hollie Fifer documentary on the Paga Hill development.
The Hollie Fifer documentary

The issue of Paga Hill has drawn much international attention, including the production of a documentary The Opposition which is itself steeped in all sorts of controversy itself read here

It could have been headed off at the pass, had Sam Koim been doing his job

So the big question is: Was Sam Koim merely incompetent or worse?  In view of the inaction on the Somare case, is he a serial offender – who  has danced to the tune of whoever played the prettiest music?

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