The answers are contained in the revelations of ‘ Dr Susan Merrell’s newly-released book ‘Redeeming Moti’.
In it she successfully unravels the complexities of a political situation that was conflated with heinous sexual criminal charges to give a compelling explanation and analysis of a saga that involved four nations, brought down one Pacific government and threatened another.
Told through the experience of the author when, during the court proceedings, she sought to reveal what was being hidden behind a veil of contempt promoted by the nature of the charges. In the effort to redeem Moti, did she end up losing herself?
Just 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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
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.
A three-man bench of the Supreme Court, earlier today, 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.
Justices Kandakasi, Hartshorn and Kassman found that Justice Makail was wrong and had fallen into error in granting Damaru and Gitua, as members of the police force, leave to act outside of their chain of command in joining them, independently, to the judicial review.
In their judgment they affirmed that:
The proper person to be a party to a judicial review proceeding on behalf of the Police Force …is the Police Commissioner.
And the Police Commissioner was already a party to these proceeding.
The bench were troubled by Mr Damaru’s admission that his and the interests of the Police Commissioner were different ”
because he wanted the arrest warrant executed but the Police Commissioner did not.
The learned judges gave their binding legal opinion that a police officer is not entitled to execute a warrant against the wishes of the Police Commissioner by way of a court proceeding.
Clearly, this bench of the Supreme Court would not entertain the courts being used in this manner by maverick police officers.
They went on:
Further, 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.
I have a theory on that: could it be that their successes in the courts of Justice Colin Makail have led them into that error – that his errors have been instrumental in fostering the belief that the zealotry and insubordination of these officers is a reasoned response? The Supreme Court begs to differ.
Stay tuned: tomorrow, I will explore that theory further
The Fraud Squad is either grossly incompetent or corrupt – there is no third way.
…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.
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.
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.
The recent revelation that PNG’s former Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, was named in a Singapore criminal prosecution as a recipient of $US784, 000.00 (K2, 540,000.00) has exposed Sam Koim’s position as a so-called anti-corruption fighter in PNG, as fundamentally compromised.
Since Task Force sweep was decommissioned by the NEC, Koim has been kept afloat by unknown private sources.
Is it Somare himself, or Somare’s political allies who are providing this funding?
It’s really time Koim came clean with the people of PNG about who is funding his operations. If Koim is, in fact funded by Somare or Somare’s political allies, this may explain Koim’s failure to prosecute or pursue Somare for this Singapore sling, wouldn’t it?
It might also suggest that the purpose of Koim’s relentless and well-funded attempts to remove O’Neill from his office as Prime Minister, is to install Koim’s pro-Somare benefactors in office, to protect him from prosecution for this crime?
Somare’s involvement in this scam, and the evidence required to conclusively prove it was provided to Sam Koim at the beginning of 2013, and Koim himself has publicly stated that he undertook some sort of official investigation . He declined to comment to the ABC reporter on whether or not Sir Michael had been interviewed by the Task Force.
The prosecution in Singapore was commenced in 2012, and Koim was provided with the evidence in 2013. Why has it taken so long for Koim to act in this matter? Has he even undertaken that basic, fundamental step of interviewing Somare in the investigation process?
According to Koim, he was unable to institute any prosecution in this matter because he was “defunded” by the O’Neill government. Again, given his pursuit of the current Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill through the courts of PNG since 2014, this is also hard to accept.
He seems to have garnered sufficient funds to maintain his home, his office and his own sustenance. He had sufficient funds available to illegally engage an expensive team of international and local lawyers, including Greg Egan, and Terry Lambert from Brisbane.
He had sufficient funds to orchestrate the unsuccessful prosecution of the Attorney General, a Supreme Court Judge, and several Police Commissioners, and anyone else who stood in the way of his contrived attack on the Prime Minister.
So Koim had no trouble financing these prosecutions, all of which failed. At best, they wasted precious resources (wherever they may have come from) which could have been more successfully spent prosecuting Somare.
Koim’s antics since 2013 have all been financed by persons unknown, bent on seeing O’Neill stood aside from the office of Prime Minister, at all costs, including the corruption of the prosecutorial and judicial systems.
Who would benefit from such a thing? Why, Somare and his political supporters would, of course. It’s time Koim revealed who is paying him.
A cold political wind is blowing on the islands of Bougainville that’s fuelling a cold war.
This wayward wind, which was downgraded to a tropical breeze at the cessation of hostilities in the bloody civil war on Bougainville at the end of the 1990s, has never been tamed but held in check by a peace agreement signed by most of the warring parties.
The keystone of the accord was the promised plebiscite for an independent state, to take place within 20 years of the agreement. The promise effectively took the wind out of the sails of the immediate call for independence, just as surely as Federation did similarly to the Republican movement in Australia at the beginning of the 20th Century.
This future vision watered down many Bougainvilleans’ commitment and backing for the Me’ekamui State, (declared during the hostilities by the rebels). Within Me’ekamui dwell the more militant Bougainvillean rebels. Me’ekamui refuses to die.
The possibility of independence without bloodshed was an attractive proposition for many who had lived through the war; who had suffered its deprivations and lost loved ones – as brother fought against brother.
It was the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, analogous with the biblical ‘promised land’ for those that had also suffered the loss and pollution of their precious lands at the hands of foreign interests that were supported by a government who were prepared to sacrifice Bougainville and Bougainvilleans on the altar of national economic interests.
As the twenty-year time frame enters its final years, all the old wounds that the peace agreement managed to stitch together are being torn apart by the same old issues – for they were never resolved, just postponed.
The Panguna copper mine is the single most pressing of those issues and the peace agreement did not address it at all or any of the concerns over mining in Bougainville. The sensitivity of the issue, that had been the catalyst for the civil war, was the elephant in the room that needed to be ignored to effect an agreement – and it was. But, like M’ekamui, it never went away.
Bougainvillean independence and Panguna are irrevocably interlinked
Panguna – to mine or not to mine
When the Bougainville rebels shut down Panguna in 1989, it was supplying PNG with 45% of its national export revenue and was the single biggest contributor to the economic viability of the Independent state of Papua New Guinea hence the national government’s interest. It was also the biggest polluter and cause of unrest on the island of Bougainville.
The issues surrounding Panguna were the causal link to the beginning of the hostilities – with the rebels closing the mine and the PNG Defence force being deployed to Bougainville to open the mine – forcibly if necessary. The rebels didn’t budge. There followed, on Bougainville, nine years of war that included a blockade and that pitted the PNG Defence Force against its own people.
Even though the war has been over now for almost 20 years, Panguna has never re-opened, although it’s potential output and profitability remains unchanged. There is wealth in Panguna of unrealised proportions estimated to be in the vicinity of 5 million tonnes of copper and 19 million ounces of gold.
That the mine has been closed for so long is a testimony to just how polarising the issues still are – the mine is considered a jinx.
I have visited Panguna, it’s eerie: there is a chill in the air that is not explained by the weather, I was glad to leave. Having been there, I can well understand the sentiments of a populace far more prone to the belief in the supernatural than I.
Nevertheless, to expect that it will remain closed is not realistic for if Bougainville opts for independence without reopening Panguna, how will the new State sustain itself?
This notwithstanding, none of the main actors in the cold war that’s developing, many of whom are the mandated leaders of Bougainville, have yet been willing to nail their colours to the mast about the mine’s future. But if there is a Bougainvillean, economic Holy Grail, this is it. Politically, it’s a poison chalice.
Into the fray recently, whipping up the already restless political air currents, has come mining giant Rio Tinto, who had controlling stock in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), the company that worked Panguna copper mine until its forced closure by the rebels in 1989 – BCL still holds the lease although its mining rights were downgraded to that of an exploration licence, after the new Bougainville Mining Laws were enacted in 2014.
In an interesting piece of timing, (why now?) Rio Tinto has gifted all of their shares in BCL: some to the PNG government and some to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG – autonomy being another condition of the peace agreement).
The ‘gift’ has pitted these potential protagonists against each other and managed to seemingly divest Rio Tinto of all further responsibility to clean up their mess.
While the gift of the shares to the ABG comes with all the controversy surrounding Rio Tinto’s stubborn refusal to effect reparations, both it terms of repatriation of the mining site and compensation – the shares gifted to the PNG government have the added controversy of having been gifted to an inappropriate entity.
Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has recognised that the PNG government is not the correct recipient of the BCL shares: that they rightfully belong to Bougainville. In a politically provocative move, he announced he would re-gift these shares to the affected landowners of Panguna but not through their political representatives, the ABG, but directly –there is 17.4% of the company in the offing.
President Momis was not amused: the Prime Minister had decided to by-pass the ABG – Momis suggested that the Prime Minister seemed to believe that he knew better than the ABG, saying:
You substitute your view for ours.
Prime Minister O’Neill retaliated by accusing President Momis of playing “petty politics” that undermined the peace agreement.
In reality, the politics are not petty and it would seem that the Prime Minister is himself engaging in politics using a Napoleonic ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. With his action, Mr O’Neill has diluted the power of any one BCL shareholder and denied the ABG a controlling interest.
Being an astute politician, O’Neill would be aware that the gift is good public relations for his erstwhile flagging image. It portrays him as a benevolent and generous leader (a Bik Man, if you like) while also ensuring that some time in the future, if the mine is opened under BCL, the PNG Government can form a coalition with one or a few of the other shareholders to gain control (the PNG Government has held a 19% share interest in BCL for many years). Mr O’Neill is a master in the dynamics of coalitions.
For while Mr O’Neill justified his expropriation of OkTedi, as the right of a mandated government acting on behalf of its people, he has denied controlling interest in BCL to the ABG. He can do that because Bougainville is not yet a sovereign state (and may never be).
There are other interested parties that have weighed in on the issue too, not least of all the Minster for Communications in the national government and member for Central Bougainville, Jimmy Miringtoro.
In a press statement, Miringtoro attacked the past record of the ABG and, in particular, President Momis whose involvement in the national government goes back to 1972. (Momis was one of the drafters of the PNG constitution).
Miringtoro asserted that, from his position in the national government, Momis
…could have prevented the war if he’d been honest from the start.
The only way for Momis to make peace with the people of Panguna, according to Miringtoro, was to admit that he’d “failed them,” and he recommended that:
… the President cede control of Bougainville to someone who has the energy, commitment and vision to move Bougainville forward instead of wasting time…
The Minister reminded his readers, on two occasions, that he was a mandated leader of Bougainville – seemingly to add weight to his argument. Yet, in spite of the Minister’s stated opinion on the track record of the President, it was just last year that Momis won the Presidential election on Bougainville. It was a landslide victory.
Coming a distant second was former rebel leader, Ismael Toroama who polled 18,466 votes to Momis’ 51,382 – with such a decisive result, so who is really speaking for the people?
Such is the complexity of the Bougainville issues that a simple dichotomy between PNG and Bougainville cannot be taken for granted – for, at present the only position that can be relied upon is that PNG does not want to cede independence to Bougainville – and the irony is that it doesn’t ever have to thanks to that inadequate but temporarily effective peace agreement that gave PNG a veto
There is, however, no doubt that Momis and O’Neill are jockeying for position as the Supremo of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), especially considering the upcoming plebiscite and the fact that the BCL shares would prove worthless if their mining licence in Panguna is revoked – and it could be, President Momis has already threatened the Prime Minister with this consequence.
Is this a portent of things to come and is Panguna set to become the battleground?
For questions over the future of the mine remain unanswered: should it re-open? If so, when – before the plebiscite or after? …if the plebiscite is successful? …if it’s not? Which company will mine Panguna? What of the shares in BCL …and many other considerations too numerous to mention?
Independence – who wants it?
By 2019, Bougainvilleans will all have to consider this question.
We know what O’Neill thinks but we are, as yet, not aware of the position of President Momis nor of such MPs as the aforementioned Jimmy Miringtoro who may be against Momis but may still favour independence (clearly without Momis) – who knows?
In parliament last week, O’Neill highlighted how the PNG government is helping Bougainville rebuild its infrastructure (as destroyed during the war, I suppose) that he stated was needed far more urgently than independence (I am left wondering why this wasn’t attended to many years ago – is the answer because the plebiscite was not imminent then?) He also highlighted the reforms in education and health taking place on Bougainville thanks to the PNG government.
His one erroneous assertion was that a country with a population of 200,000 (Bougainville) is unlikely to be able to survive because “the economy may not be strong enough.”
Yet, the Bougainvillean copper mine Panguna, once propped up the whole of Papua New Guinea economically, of which O’Neill would be well aware. Without Panguna, in 1976, PNG independence would not have been viable. This single asset is more than able to provide a solid economic basis for a new independent state. The Prime Minister is also well aware of what re-opening of the mine under favourable conditions would mean for Papua New Guinea who still retain 19% share in BCL – and he seems to be trying to force these conditions.
It is, however, reasonable to expect that Mr O’Neill would not want Bougainville to secede – no country or nation willing cedes territory – and it might be equally reasonable to assume that, on the opposite side of the tracks, the ABG would want it – but in that assumption you’d be wrong.
It is not yet known what position the ABG favours, it seems to be sitting back waiting for the best offer – Momis vacillates. At present he is saying that the people will decide, as indeed they will – but leaders should lead from the front, not behind.
If all that is not confusing enough, we have not yet taken into account the other important and major stakeholders in Panguna, the affected landowners who are holding some of the trump cards. Do they want independence and/or the mine to reopen? Well, yes, no and that depends.
The gifting of BCL shares from Rio Tinto and the subsequent re-gifting of them directly from the PNG government has managed to stir up a hornets nest in Bougainville.
To resolve the situation, the ABG government called a meeting of all the landowning stakeholders ,on 26th August, with a view to obtaining a consensus that favoured the government’s position. Momis got it. A resolution was signed by 10 parties including a signature purportedly from the Chief of Chief’s of the Me’ekamui Government of Unity (MGU).
The resolution refused the shares from the PNG government on behalf of the landowners and suggested that they gift them to the ABG instead.
In reality, there was no consensus.
By 28 August, the chairman of one of the affected landowner groups – a group that had signed the resolution, described a social media posting by a chairperson of another group that was a signatory, as being “misleading.”
In the same email he stated that Mr Philip Miriori, President of Me’ekamui did not sign the resolution supporting the ABG’s stance. This notwithstanding, there is a signature above the title ‘MGU Chief of Chiefs’ on the resolution. The signature is too long to be that of Chris Uma, it is otherwise illegible – I don’t know who signed it.
(I am becoming terminally confused about who is the head of Me’eakamui – Philip Miriori, Chris Uma, or this Chief of Chiefs that signed the resolution.)
The original aforementioned chairman finishes his email by saying:
As people mandated [there’s that word again] by our long-suffering Landowners of Panguna…we will not stand by and watch our ABG Government become a monster by convincing our ignorant people by so much sweet talk especially up to date our legacy issues are still evident on the ground.”
The legacy issues
The legacy issues consist of the reparation to the Panguna site and/or compensation that is owed for damages. Rio Tinto has not made any, nor has it offered to do so in the future.
Many of the landowners want this issue pursued vigorously.
One leader of a landowner group expressed the view that both the National Government of PNG and Rio Tinto be sued for the environmental damage but in a separate legal opinion I have sighted, addressed to some of the affected landowners, BCL is identified as the correct entity to sue.
How ironic, with this new share transfer/gift, the landowners could be potentially suing themselves and the ABG for damages, if they take up the proffered shares they would own 53% of the company.
Legal opinion to the chairman of a landowner group stated that the divestment of Rio Tinto of its interests in BCL makes the prospect of compensation unlikely and the writer goes on to warn that the share transfer potentially creates a conflict of interests between the ABG and the landowners
The interests of the ABG and the Landowners are not aligned and potentially diverge rather than converge.
Mining is, once again, polarising the people of Bougainville. How this will be resolved is anyone’s guess and throw an independence vote into the fray for good measure and there’s cause for concern.
For while some stakeholders have expressed the opinion that maintaining the peace on Bougainville is the single and most important task of the ABG in Bougainville at present, others have been far more belligerent.
In a recent interview with Radio NZ, John Jaintang, described as a special envoy to Mr Chris Uma the leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, has accused Bougainville’s leaders of breaking the peace process by engaging with Rio Tinto and BCL. Mr Jaintang says that “the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy.”
Ominously, he goes on to state that Me’ekamui remains “outside the peace process, ” and warns that “Me’ekamui has 100% of the arms.”
There are many self-confessed mandated leaders in this melee who are refusing to lead. While the minutiae is being attended to, the big picture is being neglected.
How to vote responsibly in the plebiscite, taking into account all of the possible issues, is a vital measure to disseminate and they need to hear it from their government. They know where the national government stands but, to date, they are getting conflicting messages from the ABG.
Yet, coming through loud and clear was the special envoy from Me’ekamui whose point, if I’m not mistaken, in saying that Me’ekamui has all the guns, is that the rest of you had better watch out.
This could well be an ominous threat if O’Neill, on a successful vote of ‘yes’ to independence, decides to exercise the ultimate folly of the peace agreement: the proverbial ‘get out of jail free’ card for the Government of PNG – the right of veto over the decision. In my opinion, O’Neill will not hesitate to use it.
Having said that, clearly a ‘no’ vote would be less problematic for the Government of Papua New Guinea as it would give them the renewed mandate in Bougainville – a clear indication of their right to rule.
And so the ‘courting period’ between PNG and Bougainville intensifies. It’s a period when it’s likely that PNG, like an anxious suitor, will be especially considerate of the needs of Bougainville, even generous.
When and if Bougainville succumbs to seduction and the courting period is over, with no more political leverage left, what then? Those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
went up the plaintive cry in response to the new cyber-crime laws passed by the PNG legislature in parliament yesterday with an overwhelming vote of 73-0.
The moaners are the same people whose illegal and/or immoral activities this legislation had been enacted to curb: the people who abuse social media, Internet and the privilege of free speech in this medium.
As I’ve not yet had the opportunity to peruse the legislation, I can’t comment on whether it is excessively harsh and severe (as the use of the word ‘draconian’ implies), but what it definitely is, is a reaction to gross abuse and it’s been a long time coming.
For if the government can be at all criticised in this matter, it is that it took far too long, allowing the abusers to become comfortable in their relative impunity and leading them to believe that they have a right to the gross abuses they’ve perpetrated that they would never have got away with in any other context.
If a stranger (or any person, for that matter) came up to me in a public place and started to yell at me profanely and abusively, including issuing death threats and/or threats of sexual violence, s/he would be arrested and locked up – as s/he would if s/he’d done similarly through a letter or via a newspaper or other hard–copy publication – why then should this same person have impunity if s/he does so in cyber space? (An example taken from real life)
This sort of speech is not deemed ‘free’ anywhere else, why should it be so on the Internet?
Then there’s the pornography that daily appears, unsolicited on the computer screens – that’s bad enough, but at least it’s impersonal. When your private messages also get unsolicited and unwelcome photos of genitals, then it becomes personal (also an example taken from real life). I do hope the legislation covers this aberrant practise too. Imagine if this same person displayed his genitals (and it’s always a male) in public or made an unwelcome private display – he’d be headed for jail – but on the Internet it’s OK?
Lately, and going beyond the personal, in PNG there have been people using the social media to mischievously spread lies and rumours. Indeed, some social media sites in Papua New Guinea brazenly espouse that they will reproduce rumour, break all laws that govern free speech and other laws, such as copyright, at will – and they taunt the authorities to do something about them – well they have.
Indeed, earlier this year when there was a skirmish between the police and protesting students, social media erroneously, mischievously and probably intentionally misreported that police had shot dead four students – they hadn’t – there were no deaths and only a few minor injuries.
The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) through its PNG correspondence reported the supposed deaths and because the ABC is the only news service with a foreign correspondent in country, it was broadcast all over the newswires to the rest of the world.
This was in spite of receiving an accurate report from this writer – they preferred to run with their own correspondent’s incorrect report – if it was on social media and your correspondent says so, it must be true.
For the ABC’s correspondent to have believed such delinquent sources is a clear indication that he had been unduly influenced by the dominant anti-government, social media and become partisan.
For the forces bankrolling the students revolt, they had gotten exactly what they were after – minimal damage and maximum impact – even the United Nations condemned the act and students in far away countries, that probably couldn’t locate PNG on a map, demonstrated. Their cause (and it was political) had received the publicity it was after – they couldn’t have done it without the abuse of social media to spread the lies.
Unfortunately, the damage to the reputation of Papua New Guinea from this episode has, no doubt, been enormous – all thanks to an unregulated medium that has one too many wanton and profligate users.
It’s not enough to say that there were already laws that covered some of the above examples because the laws, as they stood, were difficult, or nigh on impossible to enforce – now it’ll be easier and that’s both good and bad but totally necessary.
And everyone suffers
Being a political commentator that uses the Internet extensively to publish, it is certainly not in my interests for there to be greater regulation on the medium I use.
The threat of defamation is something that writers and journalists live with: an occupational hazard, if you like – and we are only too aware that those with the money to sue, even if they have little chance of success, can be an expensive nuisance. The last thing we need are laws that assist them.
It’s why I’m angry at the abusers of the medium that make it necessary for us to all live with this new set of restrictions. I dislike and resent enormously that they are necessary for all the reasons I’ve pointed out and some I’ve probably not even considered.
It’s a bit like the bridges over the freeway that have wire cages enclosing them because some idiot thought it fun to throw rocks down on the cars underneath. When these fools caused a fatal accident, something needed to be done – now we’re all caged in.
I profoundly detest living within that cage, just like I abhor living with the newly-enacted laws – yet another metaphoric cage and I blame the irresponsible, low-intellect exploiters that made it necessary – because necessary they are.
So before you violators start pointing your fingers and screaming “draconian” please take a look at your hand and notice that your remaining three fingers are indicating the culprit that made all this necessary.
What do Attorney General, Ano Pala, Aloysius Hamou and Francis Potape have in common?
Well, while the recent circus that was the Vote of No Confidence was keeping the whole nation entertained and distracted, in the nation’s courts, the three, abovementioned, gentlemen’s criminal charges were being overturned, quashed, and disallowed.
All three were cases being prosecuted on behalf of the Fraud Squad – featuring Messrs Gitua and Damaru.
These cases have been variously found to be incompetent, ill–conceived, or both as indeed was the case against Justice Sakora – thrown out too.
Other Fraud Squad cases still to be decided are that of lawyer Tiffany Twivey, John Mangos of PNG Power and the Prime Minister himself.
Given the precedents of Fraud Squad incompetence and overconfidence in their ability to influence the courts, that these cases should go the same way is more than likely (except if Justice Colin Makail is hearing them, that is)
The Fraud Squad are not conducting legitimate investigations into corruption but overseeing a witch-hunt.
It’s politically strategic
These rogue elements in the police force are aiding and abetting those with a political agenda to effect that agenda, illegitimately, through the courts and these three recent cases illustrate that all too well. See the details here
It’s the premise that those charged with an offence occupying high office should step down that excites the Fraud Squad and their political sponsors and urges them on to more spurious arrests.
Indeed, had the Attorney General stepped down on his arrest warrant being effected his electorate would have been without a member for the last two years and the national parliament would have been deprived of his services. And all for specious charges that held no water (as was found in the judgment).
But it is the ‘step down’ demand on the Prime Minister, in particular, that has culminated in the opposition seeking the court’s aid to force a Vote of No Confidence in the parliament – a vote that proved to have no chance of getting up – and the Supreme Court complied.
There is considerable debate in PNG as to whether the Supreme Court overstepped their jurisdiction and breached the separation of powers. More money will no doubt be expended on finding the answer to that.
That is, more money than the compensation likely to be claimed by all of those who were burned by the Fraud Squad’s incompetence and misguided zealotry.
These men of the Fraud Squad may be presenting themselves as God’s police; occupying a moral high ground that they have personally defined, but in actuality they are nothing short of loose cannons and dangerous vigilantes.
The political opposition is looking to the nation’s courts to effect a political solution that they are incapable of effecting in legitimate, political ways.
God help us all, if the courts co-operate any further – and yet, the three decisions this week give me hope that the law will triumph over vested interests.
To recognise outstanding achievement in matters concerning the Vote of No Confidence the committee (me) would like to make the following awards. In the category of
Best Speech the winner is:
KELLY NARU – the Governor of Morobe who displayed a profound understanding of the issues surrounding this vote and articulated them with a razor sharp analysis – especially in that which concerned the ‘Separation of Powers’.
The Yeah Yeah Yeah award also goes to Morobe and is won by: SAM BASIL– who displayed none of the above but whose words inspired the next award.
The Mispronunciation award, that goes to the word: OPPOSHISHUN closely rivalled by DESHISHUN
In the ‘Best Dressed’ category the award was unanimously voted as going to: BEN MICAH – Was his suit a political statement or does he just look good in yellow?
The Let’s Keep Them Guessing award goes to: PAIAS WINGTI – who kindly kept the whole nation entertained for seven days playing ‘Where’s Wingti’? He was in Port Moresby and voted with government. Who got it right?
In the category of Best Comeback the award goes to: JAMES MARAPE – whose quick and incisive replies floored a couple of prominent members of the Opposition including Kerenga Kua, the practiced litigator.
Best timing goes to: THEO ZURENUOC: – the Speaker of the House whose call for a vote was a relief to most (see the ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ category that proved to be a strongly contested award) and that prompted the following category of…
Best Tantrum and was won by: BELDEN NAMAH – who is poised to make this category his own with his foot-stamping, fist thumping rhetoric – “Give us a chance to debate – I will not sit down until I debate.” He must be still standing because in the next category…
Best Sense of Humour, …where the winner is, once again, Speaker of the House: THEO ZURENUOC – He presided over the proceedings with good humour, a ready smile and who wisely responded not with sanctions, but with amused laughter at the above recalcitrant.
But the Gold VONC goes to the Honourable PETER O’NEILL, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (then and now) for his decisive win of 85 to 21.