By PNG Echo
(Keep reading to the end where the document that answers the question is supplied.)
It was the National Executive Council (NEC) that established Task Force Sweep and it was the NEC that terminated the agency.
But Sam Koim couldn’t accept the inevitable. He was enjoying his elevated and internationally lauded position, notwithstanding his inexperienced and inept management of the agency that saw only half of his prosecutions make it through a committal hearing and of many of those that have, have been an unnecessary failure, according to a concerned legal expert.
Koim recently stated of the decommissioning of the agency:
It’s like the accusers threw us out of the ship in the middle of the deep ocean and expected us to drown and die, but when we made it to the shore alive, they then turned around and accused us saying “why are you still surviving?”
Actually, the situation was anything but.
They were let out of a very leaky, inadequate boat on the Jetty and told to go home – but Koim kept wading back into the sea then expecting someone to pay for expensive lifeguards to get into the surf with him and keep his head above water. It has been a wilful and continuing act.
The analogy is plain: We are talking about his many and various attempts to keep the agency afloat using expensive and illegally hired lawyers and barristers. Recently, for the third time, the Supreme Court made the ruling of their illegality bringing into question every and any court victory he may have obtained using the expensive counsel
Anyway, the question of who has been funding the agency as well as funding the litigation has been the burning question.
Ask no more.
Hereunder is an account from the Grand Papua Hotel for Mr Greg Egan, Koim’s senior counsel of choice, accomodation and food. The entity that was picking up the tab was Posman Kua, Aisi – Kerenga Kua’s old law firm.
I am also reliably informed that the ‘Dream Inn’ a Kua enterprise has also been used extensively – but that will remain speculation until someone can find an account I can publish. For now, let’s go with the one we have.
This is page 6 of Mr Egan’s accommodation bill with the final amount disclosed. I have receipt of the other five pages. Please note who’s picking up the tab.
I am about to publish a series of three articles, of varying lengths, which provide some of the answers we’ve all been wanting.
I have obtained documents, two with irrefutable evidence and another, from a credible (named) source that claims he has irrefutable evidence, that he can produce.
All three have a connection to Sam Koim, some directly some indirectly.
All of them serve to take the gloss off the pious ‘anti-corruption’ fighter and bring up very urgent reasons why he should be made to answer all the questions that these documents raise, on the witness stand, with his hand on that bible he purports to love and honour.
How many times can he have lawyer, Tiffany Twivey, arrested at the eleventh hour, to save his bacon?
You asked for it – here is is. Another nail in the coffin of the Grand Chief’s aspirations to cover up the Singapore dealings. When he asks that advise he says he’s going to of his lawyers, I wonder what they’ll tell him?
What we know so far is that 3 cheques made out to Sir Michael Thomas Somare were deposited in Singapore bank account No 0374026963
Dated 16.08.10 and was for $US280,000 – it was deposited on 16.08.10
Dated 01.09.10 for $US280,000 – it was deposited on 02.09.10
Dated 12.11.10 for $US224,000 and was deposited on 15.11.10
The Standard Chartered Bank “One Account” of Sir Michael Thomas Somare, for which PNG Echo has two bank statements, one can assume is a different account to the one that the cheques written out to Sir Michael Somare were deposited into as one of the transfers in the Oneaccount came from 0374026963
Hereunder, Sir Michael Thomas Somare’s “Oneaccount’ bank statements for the end of 2010
Transactions of interest
9 September 2010 Statement
17 August – Bulk cheque deposit – $280,000
1 September – Cash withdrawal – $260,000
3 September – Bulk cheque deposit – $200,000
3 September – Cash Withdrawal – $125,000
3 September – Transfer 0309980593 – $125,000
3 September – Transfer of $165,500 from account 0374026963 (see above)
3 September – Cash withdrawal $165,500
9 December 2010 Statement
16 November – Bulk cheque deposit – $224,000
7 December – Clearing cheque – $220,000
In August/September there were three large deposits (and other small ones that I have not taken into account). The total of those cheques was $645,000.
In November there was another for $224,000 – making the grand total $869,000.
In the space of 3 days (1-3 September) an astounding $550,500 was withdrawn in cash, $125,000 was transferred into another account (recipient unknown), then in December a cheque was written on the account for $220,000
In – $869,500
Out – $895,500
NOTE; Incomings are in blue, outgoings in red for ease of reading.
The thought that is exercising my mind is how do you move that amount of cash? What does $550,500 cash even look like? How many suitcases would it fill? How were those funds moved internationally? Was it legal?
Disclaimer: Owing to the indistinct printing of some of the documents, although all care has been taken, we bear no responsibility for any inadvertent mistakes. People should rely on their own reading of the documents that are hereunder provided.
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.
By PNG Echo. Sir Michael Somare claims he has never received illegal payments. Oh, really?
The Community Colleges rort – and the proof of the pudding…
On 16th August 2010, the then Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, received the sum of $US280,000 into his personal account (#0374026963) at the Scott’s Mall branch of the Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore, drawn on the account of M/S Questzone Offshore Limited (“Questzone”). See below.
Then, on the 1st September 2010, Somare received a further $US 280,000 into the same personal account from the same drawer. See below.
Finally, on the 12th November 2010, he also received a further sum of $US 224,000 from the same drawer into his personal account. See Below
Each of these annexures have the full tracing details endorsed by the bank on the copies produced here, so there can be no denying the funds were received by him.
I am told Sir Michael spent some of the money paying the builder of his Wewak residence and the rest has been frozen in this account (I believe the residual is around $300,000)
The enormity of this crime cannot be underestimated. I am reliably informed that it is the most serious “white collar” crime on the statute books and carries a term of imprisonment of 25 years in prison.
Furthermore, under oath before a Leadership Tribunal in 2010, Somare was required to disclose all of his bank accounts and other assets. He failed to disclose his Singapore account, and consequently perjured himself.
This account was not disclosed in his Leadership returns for 2010 or any other year subsequently, which constitutes a serial breaching of the Leadership Code.
Somare also failed to disclose this income to the Internal Revenue Commission, which is a fraud.
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.
It’s a sad truth that precious few political scandals in Papua New Guinea reach a satisfactory conclusion: they tend to erupt violently only to soon be forgotten (and often forgiven) as the next crisis or sensation overtakes and overshadows. It is why PNG Echo has a category ‘Lest we forget’.
However, in true PNG fashion, this category has been overlooked lately as PNG Echo has become swept up with current political events. It’s time to address that irony by revisiting the Moti Saga.
The Moti Saga caused a serious diplomatic stoush between Australia and countries of the Pacific – most notably the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea – but not only – Fiji and Vanuatu were involved too.
In the ensuing years, myth has overtaken fact and there are many misconceptions about what really happened.
My involvement with the Moti case and Julian Moti dates back to 2009 when I first interviewed him – and continues to this day
As a political scientist, I was appalled at his treatment and the egregiously bad behaviour of authorities in many jurisdictions and since the first article there have been dozens more – all revealing what both the Australian authorities and, sadly, the Australian press did not want the public to know.
Three years later, the High Court of Australia agreed with what Moti had always avowed and what I had been trying to disseminate, with varying success, through a reluctant media.
This is what happened in Papua New Guinea.
By Susan Merrell
No one would accuse Julian Moti of being politically naïve. When he accepted the position as Attorney General of the Solomon Islands in 2006 he knew there were powerful opposing forces.
None so powerful as the Australian authorities that were having difficulty accepting a change in attitude towards their role in the Solomon Islands brought about by the new Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare.
Sogavare had, over time, become increasingly critical of the intervention of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). Moti backed Sogavare’s position.
Australia’s best interests would be served by a quick removal of Sogavare and his backers.
So when Moti learned that the Australian Federal Police had begun a new investigation into a charge of sex with a minor (a charge that had been thrown out of a Vanuatu court almost a decade previously – Moti was found to have no case to answer), he braced himself for the ‘smear campaign’.
This was how they would discredit him, he reasoned. It was politics and politics is dirty.
But, even though Moti was in Papua New Guinea on his way to Honiara to advise Sogavare how to defeat a parliamentary motion of ‘no confidence’ against him in September 2006, and though he was aware that the Australians would be hoping that the motion was successful, he still did not foresee what would happen next
It must be nerve racking to arrest a lawyer. Lawyers have an air of arrogance buoyed by the confidence of knowing the law, their rights within those laws and how to exercise them. A wise person would be very sure of their grounds before making such a move.
Moreover, in Papua New Guinea’s international airport on September 29, 2006, it was no ordinary lawyer that was arrested. It was the Attorney General elect of the Solomon Islands, Julian Moti, in transit to Honiara to take up his position.
The now PNG Opposition Leader, Hon Don Polye, in a statement to the PNG parliament (2011) on the Ombudsman’s Commission Report (into the Moti issue) reminded parliament:
Mr. Moti was not an ordinary person. He was the Highest Law Officer of a Sovereign nation. He was the Attorney General of Solomon Islands. He deserved to be treated with decorum and proper protocol of a foreign dignitary.
MR SPEAKER, not only was Mr. Moti deserving of decorum and protocol, (as we would expect other countries to treat our Attorney General), Mr. Moti was also an International Protected Person under the Convention on the Prevention of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons including Diplomatic Agents 1973 (“the IPP Convention 1973”) to which PNG became a signatory in 2003. Under the IPP Convention PNG was obligated to protect Mr. Moti, who qualified as a “representative or official of a State” and grant him safe passage as the highest ranking law officer of Solomon Islands.
The Arrest, Extraction and Detention of Mr. Moti by our Police, was in breach of our International Law and our International Obligations under both the Chicago Convention 1958 and the IPP Convention 1973.
So where was the Arrest Warrant and why was Moti removed from the transit lounge without the correct immigration documents and visas? It’s questions such as these that lead one to suspect that there were compelling forces at work – even more compelling than the law.
How the arrest was effected.
When Moti arrive in Papua New Guinea, he had been travelling for almost twenty-four hours. It’s no simple matter getting from India (where Moti had been an academic) to the Solomon Islands. He took the quickest route – to Singapore through Papua New Guinea, onto Honiara.
Had Moti known what was in store he may just have chosen the long way round.
For there was a reception committee waiting at the transit lounge of Jackson International Airport. It wasn’t welcoming or befitting Moti’s status.
was the instruction as Moti’s travel documents were handed to an awaiting, unidentified, Australian man. After perusing the documents, the Australian conversed with another Papua New Guinean man who approached Moti. Identifying himself as a police officer with the Transnational Crime Unit, he informed Moti he was under arrest.
Why am I under arrest,
Moti demanded to know.
I don’t know. My seniors will tell you when they come.
The Police Officer replied.
Where’s the warrant for my arrest,
I don’t have it, it’s with my seniors,
the increasingly rattled policeman responded.
Clearly agitated by Moti’s questions, the police officer waited anxiously for his “seniors.” He knew who Moti was – he was well-aware of his position.
The seniors never did arrive – neither did the Arrest Warrant. And in spite of Moti not having the required documentation to enter Papua New Guinea, he was taken from the airport to a prison cell at Boroko Police Station.
The Machiavellian Australian figure appeared to direct the proceedings, the Papua New Guinean police carried out the orders.
In the Boroko cell.
The cells at the Boroko Police Station are hot and oppressive. There’s no air conditioning.
Squalid habitations for the wretched of the earth,
is how Moti described them. By this time Moti was indeed wretched.
I remained in a state of shock throughout the day,
wrote Moti of his incarceration.
I had not been given anything to eat or drink. I had never felt so dejected in my entire life. The stench in that cell was overpowering.
Moti became ill and was vomiting. He was having trouble breathing. He had no access to his asthma medicine, which was in his luggage that had been taken off the plane bound for Honiara but had since gone missing.
Moti’s lawyer in Papua New Guinea, Peter Pena, described the condition of the cell as “putrid.” Moreover, the other inmates incarcerated with Moti were being detained for “wilful murder and other serious crimes.”
A more ignominious fate for a high-ranking official of a fellow Melanesian state is hard to imagine, a fact recognised when Moti received a visit from Joseph Assaigo (since deceased). The Intelligence Branch Chief attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, apologised to Moti for the bad treatment.
By this time it was already afternoon.
Moti had received a copy of the Arrest Warrant mid morning. It had been obtained from the District Court at 9.30 a.m. Moti had been arrested at 5.30 a.m.
Mr. Moti, had in actual fact been arrested, extracted from the International Transit Lounge of the airport and held in police custody for over four hours at the behest, direction and supervision of the Australian Government without even a Warrant of Arrest.
wrote Peter Pena incredulously in his affadavit
Moreover, in the abovementioned statement to parliament, Hon Don Polye admitted Papua New Guinean culpability, stating:
MR SPEAKER, the most important fact that has eluded the media and the public eye for the last five (5) years that I must remind this House is that Mr. Moti has not committed any crime in Papua New Guinea. Mr. Moti did not commit any offence in PNG. Mr. Moti has not broken any law in PNG, either on or before the 29th of September 2006.
MR SPEAKER, there were no charges laid against Mr. Moti at the time of his arrest – for arrest, extraction from the International Lounge [Jacksons Airport] and lock-up. You can’t lock up international transit passengers without any charges. But that’s what we did.”[original emphasis]
Furthermore, Moti’s lawyers (including, now Acting Judge Danajo Koeget) noted numerous legally questionable premises on which the Warrant of Arrest had relied including an old extradition law that had since been repealed and replaced.
It was clear to Pena and Koeget that this document had been written in indecent haste and with scant regard to the laws of Papua New Guinea.
Nevertheless, and to the lawyers’ astonishment, the magistrate refused to discharge Moti but took it upon himself to grant bail.
So, in spite of Assaigo’s expressed regret at the bad treatment of Moti, the Solomon Islands’ Attorney General elect was left for twelve hours in a prison cell with murderers.
It was a cell that stank of human faeces, urine and sweat. He had not been allowed a shower or a change of clothes.
Ominously, that afternoon, Moti had also been made aware of plans to keep him away from Honiara. If he was to believe Assaigo he had every reason to fear for his life. In Moti’s affidavit to the Queensland Supreme Court he recounts this conversation that occurred at Boroko Police Station:
You watch your back, Moti,
“The stakes are high. You’ll be finished. This whole intervention is making a lot of Aussies very rich. We’ve kicked them out. [most likely talking of the aborted Enhanced Cooperation Program], they’re kicking you and Sogavare out before you guys can kick them out too.”
Late that afternoon, by the time Moti was released on bail, he was shaken and physically ill. The lawyer’s confidence had deserted him. Clearly, the law could not be relied on to keep him safe. He was a marked man.
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.
A lawyer from the Western Highlands told me that one of the ingredients in acquiring and maintaining ‘bik man’ status in the Highlands is by displays of generosity: giving away money and goods.
This revelation goes a long way to explaining the prevalence of ‘money politics’ in the national life of Papua New Guinea.
For although, the practice may seem benign and even …well…generous, when there are expectations associated with the gifts – and let’s face it, even in the traditional culture, ‘bik man’ status is an anticipated reward of such generosity, it so easily slips into bribery – the very foundation stone of corruption.
The Political ‘bik man’
In Papua New Guinea, political elections are not won on political ideology, nor on policy but on personal popularity.
Conversely, in Australia, many voters do not know who their local MPs are, or for whom they are voting. In the main, there is little interest in the personalities save for if, and when, they become government ministers (or those that were previously high-profile ministers)
Of more interest are the policies proffered by the parties; the election promises. And remember, we are only talking two main parties and a third minor player, so there is not too much information needed to be absorbed by the voting public.
Then there are many (possibly the majority) who simply vote along ideological lines with the minor party often picking up the vote of those disillusioned with the major parties – all parties have clearly defined political ideologies that inform their policies.
Indeed the beauty (and sometimes the tragedy) of a system which, in the main, works, is that it can be comfortably ignored – not so in a political system that is struggling, like Papua New Guinea.
In Papua New Guinea, with over 50 parties and a plethora of independents set to contest this election, there would neither be enough political ideologies to go around – nor unique policies, for that matter – they start to all sound eerily the same. Health, education, infrastructure, corruption…they’re all going to make it better.
When you have 30 (or more) candidates to choose from in just one electorate, to be familiar with all their policies and ideologies (supposing they had any) would be quite a task .
It’s so much easier to vote for the candidate you like: your brother, your cousin, or the person who’s just given you anything from beer and lamb flaps to a Land Rover vehicle. It’s comfortable and familiar behaviour to slip back into.
And why not?
Would the average PNG voter have any idea who their preferred candidate will support in the government that will be formed? Of course not – the successful candidate will be eagerly awaiting the period known as ‘horse trading’ to accept the greatest amount of largesse offered in exchange for support – the tradition of the ‘bik man’ will prevail.
So, demonstrably, although the Papua New Guinean elections are fashioned on those of a democratic liberal democracy, all the paradigms that make it work in a western context are rejected in favour of a return to the familiar – the generosity of the ‘bik man’ – a practice that is considered venal and corrupt in a democratic liberal democracy.
Maintaining the status quo
Having learned that it takes money to be a ‘bik man’ – it follows that it then takes even more money to maintain the position – and there are many opportunities when you’re in a position of power to rort the system – and many do.
It is often joked that on becoming a Member of Parliament, the new incumbent will put on 100kg in weight and acquire at least three more wives (I’m not sure about husbands!). It’s a comment on the corrupt money that they can expect to come their way.
But here’s the thing – sharing of the spoils does not happen anymore. The ‘bik man’ tradition is thrown out of the window in favour of a western form of individualism – it’s all mine.
Isn’t it wonderful to have the opportunity to move between two distinct realities based on pragmatism and expediency?
The rules of the game
The recent vote of no confidence serves to illustrate how the practice of money politics will and must continue under this system, how the system perpetuates itself:
For with an opposition of a man and his dog, what do you think provided the impetus to collect the 11 signatures needed to table the motion?
And why do you think the opposition were so anxious to be given seven days between the tabling and the vote?
That a considerable amount of money changed hands during that week (and before the tabling) is a no-brainer – but it had to.
The paradigm had been established, the rules of the game entrenched – the side that didn’t play by them surely would have lost. Once the game is on, neither side has much choice if it wants to be the victor.
Equally, those who refuse to play by these established rules during the elections have little chance of success.
Breaking the cycle –
I have heard it often said that the answer to the political woes of Papua New Guinea is to be found at the ballot box – vote in the right candidates. But that solution is too simplistic – for how do the voters know who that is?
In the main, they have no idea of the candidates’ policies, ideology or allegiances. What’s more, with money politics firmly entrenched many initially altruistic candidates will find themselves unable to perform their duties if they don’t play the established game. Most will succumb to the rules of the game.
There needs to be new rules. There needs to be electoral reform to make it easier for the voter to make his/her choice.
There needs to be a mechanism for restricting candidates – perhaps by severe penalties for candidates who lose badly – by say, more than 10%
There needs to be more onerous requirements of the candidates to elucidate clearly their policies, ideologies and allegiances and some impetus to stick by and enact them.
The lamb flaps, beer and Land Rovers need to stop. And this is just for a start.
PNG has the people with the intelligence to make amendments to the electoral act that will overcome the entrenched money politics – now all it needs is the will.
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.