The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, presides over a country where, according to Médecins Sans Frontières, the women are the most abused in the world outside of a conflict zone and where they “…endure some of the most extreme levels of violence in the world,” according to the Lowy Institute. (Reported in an article published in The National by journalist Grace Maribu.) Over this humanitarian crisis the Prime Minister expresses his “outrage” – but does little.
When the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea finally came out with a press statement on the recent torture of a six-year-old girl over four days at the hands of a baying, adult male mob, it was with ‘weasel words’.
Weasel words are words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that a specific or meaningful statement has been made, when instead only a vague or ambiguous claim has actually been communicated.
In the statement, he called for “Community and Church action…,” rather than his own; he condemned the attack and the attackers (whom he called a few names) and thanked the people (not him) that took decisive action to save the small girl.
He also condemned the practise of Sanguma, praised Christianity and the good Samaritans that helped save the girl and promised to keep doing what he’s been doing – working with the churches and communities as well as the RPNGC “…to end these false beliefs and to protect the lives of all Papua New Guineans.”
But why would he continue doing what he’s doing when, in the NCD (Port Moresby and surrounds) only two convictions have resulted from the 414 cases handled by the Family Sexual Violence Action Committee Secretariat between 2016 and 2017? This is in spite of legislation enacted in 2013 that was meant to protect women and girls against violence? (The Family Protection Act)
Indeed, since 2013, violence has just escalated both generally – gender-based violence (ie men beating and killing women) – and specifically – accusation-based violence (involving supposed witches) even though 2013 not only saw this legislation enacted but also the PNG Sorcery Act repealed.
It’s no coincidence that this was also the year that the mother of the tortured child, Kepari Leniata was herself tortured and burned alive as a witch. The incidents are linked.
Clearly, the response was inadequate.
There’s absolutely no point in providing a recipe if there are neither the requisite cooks nor the ingredients available to bake a cake (ie – to effect an outcome). Peter O’Neill either knew that or should have.
In spite of the Prime Ministers expressed condemnation at that time, the perpetrators of the murder of Kepari have never been brought to justice – had they been perhaps this little girl would not now be in bandages from her neck to her ankles. Violence against women is a low-risk crime in Papua New Guinea. Whose fault is that?
I mean, if the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome then Peter O’Neill must be mad – but I don’t think so.
In PNG, it is men who win elections for their candidates and although women can vote, they usually vote as their menfolk dictate. A consummate politician, Peter O’Neill knows that. The right to beat women is enshrined in the psyche of many PNG men, especially in the Highlands, where the Prime Minister’s constituency is located. Clearly, it is not good politics to antagonise one’s electoral base.
If we were in that mythical land of Oz, Peter O’Neill wouldn’t be the character without a brain: the Scarecrow, – his lukewarm response is patently politically shrewd. No, he’d be the Tin Man: the one without a heart.
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.
To recognise outstanding achievement in matters concerning the Vote of No Confidence the committee (me) would like to make the following awards. In the category of
Best Speech the winner is:
KELLY NARU – the Governor of Morobe who displayed a profound understanding of the issues surrounding this vote and articulated them with a razor sharp analysis – especially in that which concerned the ‘Separation of Powers’.
The Yeah Yeah Yeah award also goes to Morobe and is won by: SAM BASIL– who displayed none of the above but whose words inspired the next award.
The Mispronunciation award, that goes to the word: OPPOSHISHUN closely rivalled by DESHISHUN
In the ‘Best Dressed’ category the award was unanimously voted as going to: BEN MICAH – Was his suit a political statement or does he just look good in yellow?
The Let’s Keep Them Guessing award goes to: PAIAS WINGTI – who kindly kept the whole nation entertained for seven days playing ‘Where’s Wingti’? He was in Port Moresby and voted with government. Who got it right?
In the category of Best Comeback the award goes to: JAMES MARAPE – whose quick and incisive replies floored a couple of prominent members of the Opposition including Kerenga Kua, the practiced litigator.
Best timing goes to: THEO ZURENUOC: – the Speaker of the House whose call for a vote was a relief to most (see the ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ category that proved to be a strongly contested award) and that prompted the following category of…
Best Tantrum and was won by: BELDEN NAMAH – who is poised to make this category his own with his foot-stamping, fist thumping rhetoric – “Give us a chance to debate – I will not sit down until I debate.” He must be still standing because in the next category…
Best Sense of Humour, …where the winner is, once again, Speaker of the House: THEO ZURENUOC – He presided over the proceedings with good humour, a ready smile and who wisely responded not with sanctions, but with amused laughter at the above recalcitrant.
But the Gold VONC goes to the Honourable PETER O’NEILL, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (then and now) for his decisive win of 85 to 21.
In most western democracies – certainly ones with a two-party system – the Opposition opposes the Government primarily on political ideology. That ideology provides the guiding principles for their policies.
In Papua New Guinea that has a 40-something-party (and goodness knows how many independents) system, the leading political ideology is self-serving pragmatism with a nod to expediency – so what exactly does the Opposition oppose?
The raison d’être
In the main, they are in Opposition because the Government doesn’t want them. In fact, the Opposition ranks (and they are meagre) consist of the rejected, swelled by the disaffected. And this is where the ‘alternative Prime Minister’ of Papua New Guinea will be sourced?
They’d all be still with the O’Neill Government if they had not either been unceremoniously dumped and/or O’Neill had not thwarted their ambitions, within the Government.
Many (and more, it seems, to come) have slunk into the Opposition ranks, tail between their legs, venting their spiteful spleen, like rejected lovers.
In fact, I’ve heard tell that the ultimate politically rejected lover is shuffling behind O’Neill, with his begging bowl, exhorting O’Neill to take him back. I’ve also heard tell that O’Neill is resolute in denying him.
The major players
Don Polye: Stripped of the Ministry of Finance, then the Treasury portfolio and then expelled from Government by O’Neill. Ordered by the Prime Minister to sit in the Opposition benches, after initially resisting, he finally complied – ousting Namah as Opposition Leader. As leader of THE Party, Polye does not control his members. A large section of his Party stayed with government, including the Deputy Prime Minister – many defected to the Prime Minister’s party, PNC.
Belden Namah: The ultimate cuckold. O’Neill’s coalition partner going into the 2012 elections, O’Neill found he did not need Namah – neither as far as numbers were concerned nor did he need the controversy and shame that Namah had brought to the high office when he was Deputy Prime Minister. Eventually, all deserted Namah with the last being the perpetual deputy, Sam Basil – and now he’s gone too.
Kerenga Kua: Former Attorney General – did he jump – or was he pushed? Certainly things were not going swimmingly for him in the government ranks. He never made it. Now he is the leader of the disgruntled (oh, and some resurrected and obscure political, one-man party.)
Sam Basil: Even the perpetual deputy whose fortunes rose and fell with Belden Namah has decided that Namah is too much of a liability and has resurrected the Pangu Party as its leader and even managed to get himself one follower in the guise of Little Willie Samb of Goilala. To my knowledge though, he is still deputy of the opposition – but I wonder for how long now that the Opposition has swelled its number of wannabes.
In the comments, please feel free to add an Opposition member and elaborate how they have been rejected by government and why they are disgruntled.
Which brings us to Ben Micah: Rumour has it that O’Neill would not give him the Deputy Prime Minister’s job and removed his portfolio. So welcome to the disgruntled, Ben. You’ll need to fight with Kua to have the title of ‘leader’ of that bloc but you certainly have the advantage in the weight stakes if not necessarily the political weight stakes. (BTW Ben, you forgot to take the Chans with you!)
Micah’s sins and indiscretions are legion. They are the stuff of dissertations and I have no time to go into them now. But you know what they are anyway – feel free to share in the comments. We’re all interested.
The Opposition’s rejoicing at Micah’s defection reminds me of the time when Namah, as then Leader of the Opposition, proudly announced his newest defection to the ranks – Paul Tiensten, that is, after he’d been convicted but before his sentence had been handed down. For all of you who missed it – Tiensten is in Bomana (I wonder if he’s still in the Opposition and whether he can vote?)
I do understand that this outlook for an alternative Prime Minister is depressingly bleak – but I have been fomenting an idea that could work. I’m going to sleep on it – I’ll get back to you soon. After all, we’ve only got seven days.
They say that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Here are a few historical lessons I’ve dug up for the protesting students of PNG to keep in mind.
What’s the issue?
On initial reflection, it seemed to me that the difference between the protests of the PNG students and other past student protests elsewhere in the world is that the PNG protests have been partisan and blatantly political, right from the word go – targeting one man, not even a government or a party and that’s not usual.
For even though the most famous of student riots – Paris 1968 – eventually adopted the slogan “adieu de Gaulle” (goodbye de Gaulle – the then French President) they had begun by a revolt against what the students considered to be outmoded and repressive rules – specifically that they could not have a member of the opposite sex in their dormitories. They wanted the right to have unbridled sex with each other.
The reasons for the French protests became very diffuse and were badly articulated. They were more an attempt at cultural and social revolution against the backdrop of a conservatively repressive government. They arguably succeeded in their cultural and social goals, but politically, they failed miserably.
When De Gaulle called an election in response, far from it being ‘adieu de Gaulle’ it was ‘bienvenue’ as he was returned with an even larger majority than before.
The lesson PNG students can take from this historical episode is that however noisy and disruptive they become, they should not assume that they are speaking for the majority, nor assume that others will follow their political lead.
…but wait…there is a precedent
Although not usual, there was a situation in 1992, in Brazil, that closely resembles the causes in PNG with the Brazilian students having a similar political demand
They called for their President’s impeachment after the President’s brother revealed a corruption scam in which the president was involved.
There followed a Commission of Inquiry the results of which were accepted on the floor of the lower house, that then referred the president to the Chamber of Deputies who progressed the charges to the Senate that then proceeded to hear the charges in an impeachment trial where the President of the Supreme Court was presiding officer.
But while the underlying reasons are similar, that’s where the similarities end.
You see, the whole of Congress was against the President – as was, apparently, the media (yes, a neutral media is indeed a myth – everywhere).
On the other hand, O’Neill has unprecedented political support and although the Prime Minister has been referred to the leadership committee in a situation similar to the President’s referral to the Senate Committee, this has yet to progress.
What’s more, the mainstream media is not campaigning against O’Neill and is generally considered to be sympathetic to him– although there is a very noisy social media backlash – mainly orchestrated by impotent political opponents.
But back to the Brazilian President:
He didn’t resign until the last day of the hearing (it’s a myth that every politician willingly falls on their sword), knowing he was losing the case and hoping to avoid the eight-year suspension penalty.
He didn’t avoid the suspension penalty and was impeached. Success, I hear you say, something to buoy the PNG students. Well…it was extremely limited.
When the, by then, former Brazilian President was later charged criminally, all charges were dropped as the prosecution couldn’t make the case and by 2006, he was back in the Brazilian Senate and in 2015, he’s again facing corruption charges.
The French have a saying: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more they remain the same. It’s something to think about.
The missing Ingredients
The students have presented their issues to the Prime Minister and he has answered them, more than adequately. Now all they have left is a demand that he step down. Why? I may remind you that the prosecution has yet to establish that any crime has been committed – so he’s an accessory to what? The arrest warrant was always previous, cavalier and political.
Before the students continue with this campaign they’d do well to remember that the Prime Minister still retains the confidence and the backing of those with the power – including a large part of the electorate (that silent majority that the students claim to speak for).
The students no longer have any issues that are not partisan and blatantly political and, if history is any indication, to effect their political goals they are going to need more than a handful of desperate political wannabes and has-beens backing them.
It’s becoming more and more evident that the students’ latest efforts are nothing short of early election campaigning for political interests, at best, or a blatant use of their enthusiasm to effect an agenda that over ambitious vested interests have been unable to do at the polls, at worse
Social media has started throwing around Kerenga Kua’s name as a possible next Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. It’s another ill-considered notion from the Keyboards of Papua New Guinea’s self-professed ‘elites’ (sic).
I mean, why would you want him? He’s a cheat, a hypocrite and a thug.
Having said that, I can see that it at least may be possible – unlike the other candidates that social media wastes our time with like Gary Juffa and Sam Basil who have not got a snowball’s hope in hell.
Even if they win the hearts of their people, they then have the problem of winning over their fellow Members – and neither have the numbers – nor do they have the wherewithal and allegiances to garner them. Juffa is an intelligent man (not so much Basil) and he knows this only too well.
But back to Kerenga Kua, the bully boy from Sinasina/Yongomugl
Firstly, having spent many years as Sir Michael Somare’s personal lawyer, Kua, no doubt, knows where all the bodies are buried, what’s more, as his legal representative he likely would have helped Sir Michael dig the graves.
The most abiding criticism the current Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill faces is that he should stop using legal avenues to avoid arrest and submit to the court processes. Hell, our legal friend Kua has even made a big splash and a big man of himself suggesting the same.
Kua clearly has not heard the adage about people in glass houses not throwing stones.
I don’t know how he could have made such a statement with a straight face – not in view of what happened when an arrest warrant was extant for him in 2010.
Take it away, Sunday Chronicle.
[With]Mr Yama [complainant]…alleging conspiracy to pervert the court of justice [against Kua and others ] …police were working to interview PNG Law Society President, Kerenga Kua…but it was alleged that the duo [Kua and a Mr Mua] fled to Chimbu [to avoid arrest]…Mr Kua returned to Port Moresby after their representative, Blake Dawson Waldron Lawyers, successfully took out a National Court orders which granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision of Waigani District Court magistrate …to issue warrants of arrests.
The arrest warrants were stayed. How familiar does that sound? And how hypocritical does Kua sound, knowing this? Besides, never has Peter O’Neill fled to Chimbu or anywhere else – so clearly Kua could elevate this avoidance to a level otherwise unimagined.
Commissions, Commissions, Commissions
And a healthy imagination is what you’d need to believe the things that came out of the Commission of Inquiry into the briefing out and payment of private law firms.
Firstly in Paraka-esque fashion Kua tried to stop the commission – he failed.
The Commission questioned Kua and his two partners in PKA Lawyers one of whom, Goiye Gileng is Kua’s brother. And didn’t the lawyer for the Commission have a field day?
When Kisakiu Posman, Kua’s other erstwhile partner in the law firm PKA Lawyers, was asked what constituted an ‘item’ in a bill for X numbers of items, he answered that they were six minute blocks but then stumbled saying – no probably a unit was an hour.
Firstly, everyone knows that lawyers bill in minutes not hours. However, Posman must have been busy doing the sums in his head and was way ahead of counsel who pointed out that were they 6-minute units then the charge out rate would be K15,000 per hour. Whoa! However, counsel had done his homework and pointed out that in the other scenario (1 unit= an hour) then Mr Kua must have worked for 20 hours that day.
While Posman said that this would be right, at least Kua, when cross examined, said he rarely worked more than 11 hours in a day. Yet, there it was – the bill.
And then there are the ‘jobs for the boys’ or nepotism.
During the short time that Kua was Attorney General, he briefed out two of the most lucrative matters to his old firm, PKA Lawyers.
Counsel for the Commission pointed out that according to company records, Kerenga Kua was still involved in the firm when this happened. Posman explained it as being an ‘oversight’ and when Kua was questioned he said that, as Attorney General, he gave the contract to the most competent firm – yes, a firm so competent that they forget to alter the company records in a situation as sensitive as this – you’d want them in your corner if your life was on the line, wouldn’t you?
Yet, they billed the government millions of dollars (either at K15,000 an hour, or while working 20 hour days) for working on the Kumul Holdings case and, you guessed it, PNGSDP case in Singapore.
And that’s not all, there was much more – but read it yourselves. The 18 and 25th November is of particular interest. Here is the link.
And last, but not least, is the Member’s thuggery.
In a violent society, where the most vulnerable, most often women and children get gratuitously beaten, maimed and killed, to have a leader that embodies the traits of the perpetrator is simply unconscionable.
Here is a report of the Incident from The National Jan 6, 2014
…In his witness statement, which was supported by security guard Samson Kokong, Hunter [electrical manager with Aisi-Bishman Contractors]said the incident occurred at 7pm at a property owned by Kua in Section 60, Lot 20 on Gabaka Street, Gordon…
Hunter said when he arrived [at the premises]with two of his workers, he saw Kua with 12 security guards waiting inside.
“I was trying to greet him when he started shouting that I had wrecked his property and he punched me in the face,” Hunter said in his statement to police.
“I attempted to reason with him and explain my side of the issue while he continued to punch me in between yelling accusations that I was a con man and had cheated him.”…
Hunter said Kua and one of his security guards then proceeded to attack him but he managed to run out of the gate and drive off to the Boroko police station to report the matter.
Ah yes, what a Prince! Just what Papua New Guinea needs – He’s everything that’s been criticised about the current Prime Minister and so much more – he’s potentially another Paraka and he’s also a bovver boy.
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
They say that PNG is the land of the unexpected – but there is nothing unexpected about the latest decisions pertaining to Chief Superintendent Matthew Damaru and Chief Inspector Timothy Gitua of the RPNGC in what pertains to their witch hunt against the O’Neill government.
In the latest developments, Dr Lawrence Kalinoe, acting for the Attorney-General Ano Pala (who has, quite rightly, delegated authority to Kalinoe owing to a conflict of interest in this case) has refused to brief out barrister Greg Egan and Jema lawyers to represent the two policemen in the cases involving the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Finance Minister James Marape, Attorney-General Ano Pala, Police Commissioner Gari Baki, and Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele (or any cases, for that matter).
In the expected outcry by the supporters of the two rogue policemen, I have not been disappointed. This too was anticipated.
However, while my expectations and the expectations of the rogue policemen’s supporters tally, (we both expected the request to be denied) they come from a completely different understanding of justice and the rule of law.
The supporters of Damaru and Gitua want jungle justice, PNG style. They believe that the ‘bikmen’ that Damaru and Gitua have targeted are guilty and they want their heads on a plate regardless of how many principles suffer or how much anarchy and its ensuing consequences their need for retribution may trigger.
It is their argument that the government, by denying this request, is merely protecting itself and its implicated members. They claim it’s unfair.
On the surface, it may seem that way but only because these police personnel have been allowed to get away with insubordination for so long – so much so, that it has become normalised and expected that they should get away with more.
Anything is ok,with their followers as long as they deliver the bllood for which these people have been baying.
Who gave Damaru and Gitua the idea that they could act independently: that they had authority to brief these lawyers in the first place? Under whose authority were they acting? Sam Koim’s? He has no authority and is unlikely ever to get any again.
As one commentator on PNG Echo wrote:
These proceedings [various proceedings surrounding Koim] are a waste of time and money because Koim’s Task Force Sweep has no legitimate source of funding and since we should have a politically independent ICAC soon which should make Koim irrelevant although I am sure even that will not deflate his ego.
And when Damaru said, in the press, of the Acting Attorney-General’s refusal to grant his choice of lawyers
This is a major setback to all cases (in court) and investigations (into PM and others) currently underway… Taking on new representation will further delay us,
he really has only himself to blame. He should have thought about that before he decided to be a maverick. All actions have consequences, and that this gung-ho police officer failed to foresee them could be a direct result of his unbridled zealotry.
It is directly akin to all of the contempt of court charges that are now extant and threatening to hold up cases while they’re decided. The people who have allegedly committed the contempt are busy crying foul but again, they have only themselves to blame : if you don’t want contempt charges to muddy the water, stop committing contempt – it’s not rocket science, especially if you are trained in the law.
Brought back into line
The RPNGC is a disciplinary force that is hierarchical in structure. There is a definite chain of command, without which the members become vigilantes – answerable to no one. As reported in his letter to Damaru, Dr Kalinoe has reminded the police officer of this when he tells him
…the request should have come from the Police Commissioner as the head of the organisation
Damaru was advised by the Attorney-General’s Department that he and his officers were able to be represented by lawyers from the Public Solicitor’s Office – which is what the office is there for.
Rulings handed down today today by a full bench of the Supreme Court (Justices Hartshorn, Sawong and Makail) have dismissed an objection by Police Officers Gitua and Damaru to an appeal by Minister James Marape arising from a National Court decision and have, furthermore, reversed a ruling of single-sitting Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kirriwom, thus upholding the appeal of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Minister James Marape and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
In the first-mentioned matter, an appeal had been lodged against the National Court’s ruling that refused an application by government and police lawyers for interlocutory orders by consent, restraining police from arresting Minister Marape and the Prime Minister.
Messrs Gitua and Damaru were objecting to the competency of the appeal.
A full bench of the Supreme Court ruled:
In our view all of the objections of the objectors’ [Damaru and Gitua] do not question this court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal and do not go to the competency of the appeal but rather questions as to the merits of the appeal. Consequently the objection to competency should be dismissed.
In the second matter, the appeal was against Justice Kirriwom’s ruling that police officer’s Gitua and Damaru should be allowed to choose and engage their preferred counsel – in this case, Jema Lawyers and barrister Greg Egan.
The court determined that as police officers, Damaru and Gitua were required to obtain approval from the Attorney General to engage lawyers to act on their behalf in this proceeding and that Justice Kirriwom had erred in drawing the opposing conclusion.
An interim order restraining the police officers from engaging or instructing lawyers was granted and it was ordered that each party (both the Attorney General and the police officers) make the applications and appointments necessary for legal representation of Damaru and Gitua in this matter.
In both cases costs were awarded against Damaru and Gitua.
The recently published article of Dr Bill Standish entitled PNG politics after the boom, does not deserve the wholesale acceptance it has received in PNG.
Firstly it is intended for an international readership so glosses over much and while it has the air of being balanced and authoritative, close scrutiny reveals it to have considerable flaws and an undercurrent of governmental disapproval.
Unbiased journalism – no such thing
Perish the thought that journalism is ‘unbiased’. Indeed some journalism, such as opinion, requires the writer to be anything but. Nevertheless, most journalist/writers aim to be fair and provide balance. Yet, bias tends to manifest itself anyway. A writer doesn’t write in a cultural vacuum and what is one writer’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’
It’s all in the chosen word: so when Dr Standish, writes that:
In 2015 the Ombudsman Commission urged [my emphasis] the public prosecutor to make O’Neill face a leadership tribunal…
we start getting a glimpse of what Dr Standish’s language may be telling us.
The Prime Minister was ‘referred’, the Ombudsman’s Commission (OC) did not ‘urge’ anything. That the OC ‘urged’ suggests the charge is so serious that the OC is taking a particular and inappropriate interest. It’s not.
Dr Standish makes the accusation of the Prime Minister seeming “defensive” because of his banning of two Australian journalists and the PMs stance (taken effect this month) on foreign advisors. He calls this a “restriction on international oversight” whereas the Prime Minister believes he is merely restricting undue outside interference and taking back Papua New Guinea.
It’s all down to semantics again, Dr Standish’s ‘oversight’ is the Prime Minister’s ‘interference’
Furthermore, Dr Standish’s words subtly reveal a covert governmental disapproval when he talks of how
…O’Neill defunded the Investigative Task Force Sweep, [ITFS] which had gained several [my emphasis] major convictions…
Exactly how many are several? The word certainly implies that the ITFS enjoyed considerable success. But did it?
In the figures that Sam Koim (ITFS Chainman) provided the PNG public recently he claimed to have registered 350 cases – 93 that were ITFS initiated of which 12 were successful.
Those figures neither take into consideration that the conviction of MP Francis Potape (one of the two major convictions of ITFS – the other being MP Paul Tiensten – twice) was successfully overturned on appeal nor that some have mooted that this may be the fate of other convictions.
For now, it stands at 11 out of 93, or 11.83% success rate! Based on the cases registered (350), the success rate comes out at 3.1%. Indeed, a full 50% of ITFS cases have not made it past committal.
Weighing it up – ITFS has not been the success that the mention of its “several convictions” in isolation suggests.
False Premises and the sins of omission
Dr Standish posed a question in his first paragraph where he writes:
As long as PNG’s mining boom lasted, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill could build parliamentary support by allocating constituency funds to each member of parliament’s (MP) district. So how will restricted funds impact upon O’Neill’s political position and the stability of the government?
He’s talking of DSIP funds, I presume.
The question rests on an incorrect assumption: that the Prime Minister arbitrarily allocates these funds and that he’s the sole arbiter of who gets what. There is more to a government than merely a Prime Minister.
The funds are prescribed and applied to every constituency –so the answer to that question is: not at all, how could it?
The only impediment to the MPs obtaining these prescribed funds are in the timing –many have had to wait until funds become available and there have been accusations of the government manipulating the process for political ends – an accusation denied. This could be what Dr Standish is referring to – if it is, what he’s actually said is misleading – almost right, but not quite.
Then again, when Dr Standish speaks of Paraka’s “unauthorized invoices” and alludes to the fact that the UBS loan did not “seek the necessary approval of parliament” he is skating on very thin legal ice – both of these ‘allegations’ being currently tested in the PNG courts.
Moreover, according to Dr Standish’s analysis: “Two more ongoing legal cases could have a major impact on PNG politics in 2016” and he cites the opposition challenge to the blocking of two attempted votes of no confidence and the Namah challenge to the Manus Island Detention Centre.
Not really – the worse that could happen with the court challenge to the blocking of the vote of no confidence is that the vote is allowed to go ahead. There was an overwhelming vote of confidence taken on the floor of the parliament in response to the attempted vote of no confidence and the status quo is unlikely to change.
PNGs opposition, even if joined by those on the middle benches, is miniscule; the attempted negative vote was always a nuisance tactic with precious little chance of success. The Opposition knew that and of this I was told by one of the signatories.
As for the case against the Manus Island Asylum-Seeker’s Centre by Belden Namah: if precedents are anything to go by, any case led by Namah is unlikely to proceed.
Absolutely nothing has been heard of the defamation cases he is allegedly prosecuting against the Sydney Morning Herald and the Samoa Observer, for example. Prime Minister O’Neill once said that all Namah had to offer PNG was his big mouth – and he should know.
Besides, PNGeans are less passionate about the issues surrounding the Centre than people in Australia where the subject is a political ‘hot potato’.
Finally, Dr Standish presents Don Polye, erstwhile Treasurer and current Opposition Leader, completely without context. Although Don Polye is quoted as saying “..our country is on the verge of kleptocracy,” Dr Standish fails to mention the many allegations and accusations attached to Polye himself that make Polye’s statement just a little ironically comical.
Who is Dr Bill Standish
Dr Bill Standish is described as a ‘Researcher’ based in Canberra. The Development Policy Centre’s blog, for which he writes describes him as a “Research Associate in the School of Culture, History and Language in the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific [who] has watched PNG politics closely for 45 years
It gives the reader a clue as to how, and from where, Dr Standish’s opinions have been formed (for surely he must have many after a 45-year study
Political paradigms are changing in Papua New Guinea and it’s not surprising that those who have had a long, arms-length relationship with the country may be uncomfortable with the current turn of political events. But Papua New Guinea has been a sovereign nation for forty years now and perhaps it is only right that the incumbent government should be ridding the country of the last vestiges of colonialism. Now it just remains to clear those vestiges from the minds of PNGeans too.
And in case you’re wondering, the irony of this writer also being a foreign political commentator hasn’t escaped her.