Koim gets trial date

By PNG Echo.

Koim back in court on 20 October, minus his illegal counsel
Koim back in court on 20 October, minus his illegal counsel

The substantive case on the future of Task Force Sweep has, after six months of delays, received a trial date of 20th October at 1.30 pm.

The date was fixed on Wednesday (Oct 5) in the Waigani Court – Justice Colin Makail presiding.

With this case having been trial-ready since 13 April, and with Justice Makail, up to this point, entertaining adjournment after adjournment requested by Sam Koim, on Wednesday the Judge set aside all motions that would further delay the trial and it will go ahead as per the stated schedule.

After this matter is settled, Koim will then face the contempt charges associated with the publicising of the results of Task Force Sweeps investigations – in direct contravention of a court order.

Maybe on the 20th October PNG will, at last, get the answers it craves (or details officially confirmed) of matters of national importance such as who’s been funding Koim and whether the payments are legitimate or just more corruption?

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Somare’s Singapore sling leaves Koim with a hang-over

By PNG Echo

The Grand Chief - irrevocably implicated
The Grand Chief – irrevocably implicated

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?

The famous crying 'selfie' - are crocodile tears a fitting tribute
The famous crying ‘selfie’ – are crocodile tears a fitting tribute

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.

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Sir Michael Somare: The money trail

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.

Somare Cheque 2Then, on the 1st September 2010, Somare received a further $US 280,000 into the same personal account from the same drawer. See below.

Somare Cheque 3Finally, 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

Somare Cheque 1Each 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.

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Money politics

By PNG Echo

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.

It’s overwhelming

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.

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Hold on Papua New Guinea: Get the election you deserve.

by PNG Echo

Papua New Guinea’s political opposition has just two weeks to oust the Prime Minister if they want to get their hands on the government cheque book before the next election – and they do – desperately.

They’re pulling out all the stops.

As I write, there should be a decision being handed down by the Supreme Court as to the recalling of parliament to allow a motion of ‘No Confidence’ to go ahead. With the three judges sitting on the case being Mikail J, Salika DCJ and Injia CJ, I don’t like the chances of the government winning this.

The opposition are likely to get their chance at a Vote of No Confidence – whether they win it, is another matter entirely.

But they’re in there trying!

Bring out the big guns

Strange bedfellows
Strange bedfellows

They’ve got former Prime Ministers Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir Michael Somare joining forces in the attempt to depose the Prime Minister and asking other MPs to join them in a press statement that is the most hypocritical and self- serving document imaginable.

These men live in a very fragile metaphoric ‘glass houses’, yet they insist on throwing stones.

The two masters of the ironic (Morauta and Somare) are saying:

As former Prime Ministers we have made our choice, and we ask our fellow Papua New Guineans to join us in rescuing our country. We cannot, through inaction, see our democracy and the institutions that support democracy ruined. The nation’s future is at stake. Today we are declaring that the Prime Minister must stand down, for the good of all Papua New Guineans.”

For the good of all Papua New Guineans? When did these two have the good of Papua New Guinea foremost on their agenda?

Sir Michael was the architect and founding father of what Wikileaks called “a dysfunctional blob” and when Wikileaks made a comment on the possibility of Sir Michael coming back into power after the 2011 political coup, they referred to the Somare regime as

…a cesspit of corruption, incompetence and mediocrity.

Then again, Sir Mekere Morauta presided over what the Prime Minister has described as “the lost decade” with opportunities and good times squandered.

They are proposing a rescue plan that, on scrutiny, is actually a plan to make a plan. – they provide no solutions but plenty of criticism – all wreaking of gross hypocrisy.

They say:

The past five years of Mr O’Neill’s leadership have been characterized by mismanagement, waste and corruption on an unprecedented scale.

That’s not right.

If we’re talking mismanagement there are plenty of precedents in the Prime Ministership of both Somare and Morauta. In fact, let’s hear from Sir Mekere on what he thought about the management of PNGs finances during the Somare era,

As Minister, Arthur Somare regarded the SOEs [state–owned enterprises] as toys to be owned to glorify his image.

He said that the Somare family regarded these SOEs as their “honey pot”

It’s an interesting criticism when you consider the similar one the Prime Minister made of Sir Mekere when he recently said that that the

“…ongoing stream of hate and malice is all about the former Prime Minister trying to undermine the Government to keep control of the Sustainable Development Program (SDP) money…[Morauta] thinks that if there is a change of Government he might get to stay on and keep spending the money belonging to SDP [Sustained Development Program associated with compensation for the OkTedi mining environmental damage].”

The Founding father of the dysfunctional blob
The Founding father of the dysfunctional blob

As for corruption, well the ‘Father of the Nation’ is still allegedly at it (see here) and it would be more important to him than ever, now that he’s announced his retirement, that he install a government that would be sympathetic to his, and his family’s, ongoing needs.

No, neither of these two has earned the right to access the public coffers -especially not prior to an election that would recognise either of them as the mandated incumbent – and that’s unlikely to happen ever again making them no different to thieves, taking what doesn’t belong to them.

To election…

The question has to be asked why the opposition so desperately need access to the state’s coffers, doesn’t it?  What plans do they have for money belonging to the people?

These two weeks are so crucial to the Opposition because if they depose O’Neill after this small window of opportunity, then it will trigger an election – and they will have to go to that election without the benefit of the public purse.

Make no mistake, these next two weeks are nothing to do with the good of the nation and everything to do with the financial ambitions of the Opposition who’d like the trough for their snouts.

They’ll be quiet come the end of July – mark my words. The good of the nation will be forgotten.

Hold on PNG – get the election you deserve.

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Corruption: Somare’s blueprint – Koim’s selective myopia

By PNG Echo.

Sir Michael Somare the founf=ding father of corruption in PNG - still at it, after all this time.
Sir Michael Somare, the founding father of corruption in PNG – still at it, after all these years.

If you need schooling in corruption, you need look no further than the lessons the founding father of Papua New Guinea, Governor of East Sepik Province and former Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, can teach you.

Sir Michael is the chief architect in the shaping of a corrupt political culture that the international diplomatic community describes, in private, as a “dysfunctional blob.”  See article.

The jargon

The jargon of corruption like –  inflated contracts, bribery, kickbacks, travel junkets, unfulfilled contractual obligations, nepotism, lack of transparent accounting, circumvention of process, cronyism, disreputable companies, lying under oath, non-disclosure, payments in the proverbial “dribs and drabs”, conflicts of interest and high-ranking patronage are all here in the story I’m about to tell you.

It’s also a tale that acts as sad indictment of Task Force Sweep’s failure to act on evidence in their possession (and they have all I have and more, and have had it in their possession for three years). It serves to add weight to the accusation that their pursuit of the allegedly corrupt is excessively influenced by politics.

It’s all about a contract involving Papua New Guinea

This particular shady contract has drawn the keen interest of the inscrutable Singapore Public Prosecutor who has charged two of the main protagonists, Lim Ai Wah and her husband Thomas Doehrman, with engaging in a conspiracy to falsify a paper with intent to defraud.

The “paper” was an invoice from a company in the British Virgin Islands (Questzone) to ZTE Corporation (the main contractor in the PNG contract) that was purportedly for supply of goods and services but instead was to collect a commission payment of $US 3.6 million (kickback) for the awarding of said contract in Papua New Guinea (to build community colleges).

The allegedly false invoice was needed to justify highly irregular distribution of the said payment to persons with a clear conflict of interest (which will become apparent as we progress) – that included Doehrman and his wife, the then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his son Michael M Somare (also known as ‘Moox’)

But the Singaporeans have just scratched the surface – this is the stuff Commissions of Inquiry are made of – and God help us, we need another Inquiry (when will they invent an ironic font?)

The case in Singapore is ongoing.

Background to a rort

It was an accepted proposal that community colleges would be built across PNG to educate people who had ‘dropped out’ or had been otherwise unable to complete their education.

In 2010, PNG Department of National Planning kicked in K56 million, K90 million was provided by a loan from the Chinese Exim bank ($US36 million), a further amount of K10 million was drawn from RESI funds for which the payee, originally the East Sepik Provincial Treasury Office was later changed to the Merienburg Community College Trust Account.

That’s a grand total of K156 million

A trust was set up to administer the funds (LTE) ZTE Corporation was appointed the lead contractor.

Paid contracts, unfulfilled

There were 17 proposed colleges, two of which were to be privately funded, 15 to be funded by monies administered by the LTE trust.

According to a report by the Department of Education dated 19 June, 2013 the status is:

  • 2 – completed and operational
  • 3 – completed
  • 1 – ready for construction
  • 9 – not established due to land disputes

But others have informed me there is absolutely nothing to show.

Take the case of the college to be built in Wabag that had an establishment cost of K5.08 million for which K5.2 million was disbursed there. Reports state that it is one of the colleges that is caught up in land disputes and yet, it is also reported that all funds were fully exhausted or fully committed with no infrastructure or construction in evidence anywhere.  So what exhausted over K5 million – what was it spent on if not the college?

Worse, is the case of the Merienburg College where K17 million was deposited into their trust account, yet there is no college there: it falling under the ‘not established due to land disputes’ category. So how was that money spent?

This is blatant corruption: Task Force Sweep, has had this information since 2013 

The Somare connection

There is one person who is prominent in all the dealings, he’s the ‘friend’ in high places’, and let’s face it there’s none as high has the office of the Prime Minister and no Prime Minister more prominent in PNGs past nor present, as PNGs founding father, Sir Michael Somare.

Sir Michael’s fingerprints are all over this deal. It was Sir Michael Somare

  • …who was the Prime Minister at the time that the scheme was approved.
  • …that put his own cronies into the ITE trust (that distributes the monies) including his own son Michael Junior (Moox).
  • … who provided the only invitation for the appointment of Moox and Thomas Doehrman as trustees to ITE, circumventing protocol.
  • … that was one of the 4 recipients who shared a commission of $US3.6 million in a distribution decided by Moox, Thomas Doehrman and Stephen Li of ZTE Corporation.
  • … that having put his cronies in place in LTE they then enlisted ZTE corporation as the main contractor, paying them the money from the Chinese Exim loan ($US36 million – 90% of the contract price) from which the commission of 10% could be disguised as payment for services and goods and paid to the British Virgin Islands company set up for that purpose, Questzone.
  • … and his cronies in LTE that overlooked or approved and paid the inflated ZTE initial quote, that went from $US10 million to $US24 million and finally to over $US38 million.
  • … and 10 other people (said to include members of his family) who spent almost K15 million in travel expenses flying to China to sign contracts that could have been handled by one person in Port Moresby with the aid of the Chinese embassy.
  • … who failed to disclose all of the ‘advantages’ of which he’s been the recipient in this deal. He lied under oath.

What’s more:

  • It was under Sir Michael Somare’s watch that the Department of National Planning was complicit in paying monies into trust accounts in “dribs and drabs” to keep the accounts under the payment approvals threshold and thus to circumvent scrutiny
  • It was Sir Michael Somare’s cronies who, having bypassed all standard procedures, hired a company (ZTE) that had been suspected of corruption in relation to contracts in the Phillipines, Mongolia, Norway and Algeria.
  • It was Sir Michael Somare’s crony, Thomas Doehrman who received monies (K3 million) in a trust account he set up which had been earmarked by the NEC to be operated by the community college scheme’s architect, Dr Alphonse Xavier.

The Koim disconnect.

So what more do they want? The fish has literally jumped on the line for them.

Our brave corruption fighters who have no qualms in accosting and arresting female lawyers at airports and manhandling them roughly to the point of bruising –seem to be having a problem with this one. Why’s that?

All the evidence I have and the Singapore authorities have, Task Force Sweep and the Fraud Squad – Koim, Damaru and Gitua have also had for three years.

It seems, for them, it’s a legitimate use of their time to harass the current Prime Minister when he has already stated that he has received no benefits from the Paraka case and that if they can produce some evidence to the contrary he will give himself up (clearly they can’t produce any, because they haven’t) – yet they cannot act when there is a clear trail of evidence with recorded payments and a sworn statement taken by the Public Prosecutor in Singapore from Lim Ai Wah implicating all.

In fact Lim Ai Wah has been a wealth of information:

When asked if she knew that the money deposited in the Questzone account ($US3.6 million) was from the proceeds of crime, she responded:

I wish to say yes but I wish to say that if you don’t pay to the PM PNG you will not be able to get business from PNG.

She also went on to say:

I wish to state that the 3 payments labelled ‘Housing’…were made for the purpose of helping PM PNG to pay for his house and his son to pay for a separate house…Hence the US$280,000 and US$224.000…were meant for the PM PNG’s use of housing loans.

She goes on further:

Sometime in 2010, I received a call from the son of PM PNG asking me to send money to him. I told him the amount set aside for him was US$280,000 but since he did not have an account in Singapore, I wrote a cheque to PM PNGs bank account and told him to pass the money to his son…”

Let me reiterate: This is a sworn statement by one of the parties (married to Thomas Doehrman – a trustee of LTE) who has admitted this, under oath with evidentiary support (bank accounts etc).

Lim, her husband Thomas Doehrman, a trustee of LTE, Michael Somare Junior – Deputy Chairman of LTE and Sir Michael Somare, Prime Minister of PNG all benefited from the proceeds of crime to the tune of $US3.6 million.

The conflict of interests is clear.

Sir Michael Somare, at best, has failed to disclose these payments, even during a Leadership Tribunal (it could be why he’s so chary of fulfilling his statutory duties and filing his returns) and at worst…?

All hail the Chief!

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Corruption: Sir Michael Somare’s Legacy

By PNG Echo

The Grand Chief
The Grand Chief

Revered as the founding father of Papua New Guinea, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s political career pre-dates national independence by 8 years.

First elected to Papua New Guinea’s pre-independence parliament in 1967, he has had an unbroken run of almost 49 years as an elected Member of Parliament, 17 of those as Prime Minister of the independent state of Papua New Guinea.

On independence, Sir Michael had already done his political apprenticeship under Australia’s watchful eye and he’d had a full 8 years to learn the ropes (even as Chief Minister in the pre-independence, self governing parliament) before he became PNGs first Prime Minister.

If anyone was poised at the crossroads of history, with an opportunity to leave his indelible mark, Sir Michael was.

And he has – but it is not one of which to be proud and it could have been.

His was the unique opportunity to steer Papua New Guinea in any direction he wanted. He chose the path most travelled – self-interest.

An opportunity squandered

Dubai. Is this what Port Moresby could be like now?
Dubai. Is this what Port Moresby could be like now?

By now, PNG should be counted among other great, modern nations like Singapore and Dubai, it certainly had all of the potential.

And to a large extent, the future destiny of PNG had been trustingly placed in the hands of Sir Michael on independence. He had led the nation to that point and the people were confident he would lead them into a prosperous independent future.

They were disappointed.

Instead, Sir Michael spent his post-independence parliamentary life as the leading architect of Papua New Guinea’s shameful and ignoble political culture where precious little functions and only money talks.

And so, Sir Michael bows out of politics at a time when the social indicators in Papua New Guinea are abysmal (I needn’t expand on this as they are only too well known).

Indeed, according to leaked diplomatic cables, Sir Michael is the founding father of

…a dysfunctional blob.

On the possibility of Sir Michael coming back into power after the 2011 political coup, a diplomatic source (Wikileaks) called the Somare regime:

…a cesspit of corruption, incompetence and mediocrity.

Entrenching an aberrant Modus Operandi

PNGs Hous Tambaran (parliament)
PNGs Hous Tambaran (parliament)

Remember. It was the Somare government who enshrined such manipulative tactics as controlling parliamentary procedures by sheer weight of numbers, together with the convenient adjournment of parliament to avoid adverse parliamentary votes, according to a paper on the DevPolicy blog by the well-credentialed, Ronald May.

For example, the Somare government had its own self-interested at heart when in November 2010 – it adjourned the parliament to 10 May 2011. The long recess was to avoid the opposition moving a motion of no confidence in the government.

It was during Somare’s Prime Ministership that “executive dominance’ started to be remarked upon in the media.

What’s more, the sacking of Gari Baki and appointment of Tony Wagambie as acting commissioner in 2010 was then seen as a political act that left a divided police force.

Sounding familiar? But wait, there’s more:

For several years prior to his options running out, Sir Michael had been taking court action to prevent the Ombudsman Commission from investigating violation of the leadership code for his failure to lodge complete financial returns for fifteen years beginning in 1992–93.

When he was finally found guilty, one of the three judges, Sir Robin Auld, thought the offense should result in Somare’s dismissal because he’d shown

…a disregard bordering on disdain for his constitutional obligations.

In the end Somare was suspended for two weeks without pay.

But the irony of this should not be lost when Somare evoked the sacred nature of the PNGs ‘Mama Lo’ (the constitution) to rail against his own overthrow in the political coup of 2011 – craven hypocritical pragmatism?M

I would moot, that the methodology pioneered by Sir Michael, owing to his political dominance and its efficacy, has left a legacy where it is almost impossible to survive politically without employing the same tactics – they’ve become entrenched and seemingly impossible to bypass.

Nepotism and the art of corruption

Neither has Sir Michael ever been averse to employing a bit of nepotism –I mean, it’s so much easier to control the political environment, and the flow of anticipated largesse, when you have your cronies on the inside – better still if they’re family… and Sir Michael’s family has benefited in spades with government jobs and lucrative board appointments.

If you want to be sure of commissions (also known as kickbacks), it’s handy to have a son on the board of the trust that awards the contract (with the proviso of the said commission) and decides the beneficiaries.

Sir Michael, the family man.
Sir Michael, the family man.

And so Michael Somare Jnr (also known as Moox), became the Deputy Chairman of a trust that administered a multi-million dollar governmental loan from the Chinese Exim bank to build community colleges (variously reported – but around $US36 million)

In regard to this fund, and the subsequent awarding of contracts, both Somares – father and son – are embroiled and implicated in corruption allegations in the Singapore courts that involve substantial kickbacks to them and charges of conspiracy to falsify a document, wilfully and with intent to defraud – levelled against another trustee of the same trust of which Moox is the Deputy Chairman together with the company that was eventually awarded the contract.

In a sworn statement to the police, one of the accused Lim Ai Wah when asked whether she understood/knew that money she had had deposited into an account to pay “commissions” was proceeds of crime, she answered:

I wish to say yes but wish to say that if you don’t pay to the PM PNG you will not be able to get business from Papua New Guinea.

She was speaking of Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare who had, at the time, been Prime Minister for the previous eight years.

This case was still being decided in the Singapore courts until recently and I am in the process of finding out more details which will follow in a separate article.

However, not in dispute and listed in the prosecutions submission to the court under “Undisputed background facts” is that both Somare’s received six figure sums (in US $) as commissions/kickbacks. This notwithstanding there is still no sign of the colleges – just commission payments.

The younger Somares Betha and Arthur.
The younger Somares Betha and Arthur.

Other Somare children have been similarly blessed with son, Sana Somare’s appointment to the board of PNG Power in 2005, while daughter Betha earned her keep by looking after public and media relations for her father.

Betha would brook no criticism of her father and was known to respond to difficult and probing questions like those from The Australian with a three-word reply, “Go to Hell.” Not a usual tactic for a public relations professional but not many have a doting Daddy as the boss.

Then there was Arthur who was awarded prestigious Ministries when he became an MP, up to and including Minister for Public Enterprises, where he was instrumental in setting up the Arab loan that preceded this government’s refinancing and restructuring through the controversial UBS loan.

It was a lemon handed to this government by Somare junior on attaining power – whether the O’Neill government will go on to succeed in making lemonade is yet to be determined – but make no mistake, the present government was forced to act because of the legacy that the Somare government had left them thanks to the Junior Somare, Arthur.

What’s left to posterity from this greatest of opportunities?

…precious little really, certainly not another Singapore or Dubai. If the Hippocratic oath tells us to “firstly, do no harm,” no one told the Somares, led by the patriarch of the clan, that it was an oath worth subscribing to.

A hideous political culture had life breathed into it by Papua New Guinea’s founding father, Sir Michael Somare – a good father does not leave such a millstone around the neck of his children.

If corruption, as so widely quoted, is systemic and systematic – it’s the Somare legacy.  Hail the Grand Chief!

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Gentle man, Peter O’Neill, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.

By PNG Echo

Peter+O'NeillThis writer is often accused of “bias” towards the current government generally, and its head, Peter O’Neill, particularly.

There is no bias, just a considered opinion – between the two, there is a vast difference.  Here’s where my reflections led me and how I got there.

Criticism and defence.

Firstly, I am not uncritical of the O’Neill government.  For instance, I don’t think the Prime Minister is paying nearly enough attention to eradicating violence against women. I have added my voice to this issue and will continue to do so. However, it is not this issue that has drawn the most criticism of him.

When we believed there was hope. Before the disappointment set in: Women celebrating the 22 reserved seats that did not eventuate. Shame on you MPs.
When we believed there was hope. Before the disappointment set in: Women celebrating the 22 reserved seats that did not eventuate. Shame on you MPs.

More remarked upon is the PMs alleged corruption. During his tenure as Prime Minister, O’Neill has been dogged by rogue members of an undisciplined police force on a witch-hunt started by a government agency (TFS – who has been accused of being politically compromised) that firstly exonerated him and then changed its mind when it looked like the agency would not be recommissioned.

Paul Paraka - PM implicated in his alleged fraud
Paul Paraka – PM implicated in his alleged fraud

Under the circumstances, that his detractors are expecting the Prime Minister to be subdued and vanquished without a fight is surprising, especially since the prosecution of this case is little more than a blatant attempt to usurp the position of Prime Minister and thrust the nation into turmoil.

Not to submit to vexatious litigation with those sorts of consequences is not an immoral act, but rather, a virtue.

Remember, never has the Prime Minister stepped outside the law in his own defence. Yet, the people who oppose him are very happy to do so – to act ultra vires with scant regard for the consequences.

While the Prime Minister’s detractors are happy to bring down the system to effect their witch hunt, the Prime Minister is acting responsibly, upholding the idea of a liberal democracy and the rule of law – as one would expect of a Prime Minister.

The UBS loan was controversial
The UBS loan was controversial

Then there is the handling of the economy: it is so easy to make hay while the sun shines- but PNG is a resource-based economy and the sun isn’t shining on this sector globally. This government has not had a broad-range of alternatives with which to work and they have made their choices – choices that have been severely criticized.

However, it is only in retrospect – with 20/20 hindsight – that it will become apparent whether the choices have been wise ones.

Would another government have made different choices? Maybe. But the upshot is that they would have still had the same unfavourable context in which to operate, the same inherited conditions – many of which forced the hand of this government and would have done the same to any other.

One can predict all one likes but economics and the market do not always act predictably.

The Wasa Bridge - a dubious contract award involving Opposition Leader, Don Polye
The Wasa Bridge – a dubiously awarded contract award involving Opposition Leader, Don Polye.

On other matters: some criticisms, like the awarding of inflated government contracts to inappropriate contractors, are as old as the nation itself and the practises are steeped in PNG traditional custom. This is not a new invention by the O’Neill government.

My point: The issues for which the Prime Minister has gained the most severe criticism – down to criminal accusations, have all been those that involve money – alleged sins against property.

A gentle man of politics
A gentle man of politics

Never once has O’Neill been accused of brutality against his people.  

It is why I am perturbed when people in the social media compare him to leaders such as Idi Amin, Hitler and Ferdinand Marcos.

All these leaders were brutal murders.

Amin murdered an estimated 500,000. He was known as the ‘Butcher of Uganda’. From the military, he was an ambitious soldier, whose arsenal included the frequent use of torture.

Indeed, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines employed 88 government torturers to help maintain his dictatorship under martial law.

Hitler committed genocide – arguably the most heinous of crimes against humanity as he sought to obliterate the Jews off the face of the earth. However, I believe that he was a dab hand at handling the German economy –

These men resemble O’Neill NOT AT ALL:

The abovementioned heads of the murderous regimes all maintained power and control by acting extra-legally – just as those opposing the Prime Minister are trying to do – NOT the Prime Minister.

They breached the wall and the pigs ran in…

I am persuaded by this
I am persuaded by this

Papua New Guinea has a Prime Minister who respects the rule of law and is a gentle man – this cannot be said of many of his opponents.

While the government now, as in the past, has often affected lives negatively by omission, with this government it has never been, and I believe never will be, by commission. It’s a decent basis for a country with, admittedly, a long way to go.

I am most persuaded by this.

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Tall tales and true: Strategically yours

By Susan Merrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Paraka case: Losing the forest amongst the trees.

By PNG Echo.

Paul Paraka - the main protagonist in the Paraka case, not the Prime Minister
Paul Paraka – the main protagonist in the Paraka case, not the Prime Minister

Although the Paraka case exposes the biggest corruption ring ever prosecuted in Papua New Guinea, lately the prosecution of just one man has taken over, to the seeming exclusion of all others – the case of the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.  He is a huge spreading tree camouflaging the rest of the forest.

In part, this is the fault of the Prime Minister himself who has stubbornly refused to be questioned by police.

His refusal, and the machinations to avoid doing so, has divided the police force and, as in 2011, has pitted the executive against the judiciary, once again.

Looking at it from the Prime Minister’s point of view, if the allegations of political conspiracy hold any water, then to risk being put at the mercy of those who plot politically against him is folly.

However, this case is not about politics but about theft – grand theft – and one can’t help but have the sneaking suspicion that it is being used to effect political goals by those wanting to wrest power.

That the first letter, allegedly from the Prime Minister, was revealed in parliament by the opposition is indicative (and wasn’t this also the source of the second letter?) Continue reading The Paraka case: Losing the forest amongst the trees.

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