The journalist, the Human Rights’ Commissioner, the Prime Minister and the abuses.

By PNG Echo

It is, by now, well known that, last weekend, this journalist was refused entry into Papua New Guinea (PNG) by order of the Prime Minister.

The journalist joins the festivities during her cameo appearance in PNG on the weekend. Some PNG politicians are championing change to provide a safe and clean environment for women and all people in PNG – just not the Prime Minister.

It was heavy handed, provocative and ultimately an exercise in futility.

May I remind the Prime Minister that there have been very successful revolutions enacted remotely – the Ayotollah Khomeini effected the Iranian revolution from enforced exile in Paris, for instance.


In PNG, political revolution is not called for – the government was democratically elected and ought to be free to do its job. It’s the fact that this government is not doing that job; that it is falling down badly in some areas of concern affecting the human rights of half its population.

The ill-fortune of women in PNG will not change (and it surely must) until there is effective political leadership with a Prime Minister who’s committed to the cause instead of one that merely gives the problem lip service. (see: the article likely to have caused the chagrin that led to my refusal of entry to PNG.)

And it’s not only me that has noticed: In this year of the hosting of APEC by Papua New Guinea – the UN has been scathing.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In a recent visit to PNG, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, tore strips off the record of PNG in this area.

Yet, in a bizarre statement purportedly released before the High Commissioner’s visit Mr O’Neill stated in a confident, self-congratulatory manner that:

The observations of the High Commissioner are comforting [my emphasis] as this government has made a concerted effort to engage with all stakeholders, particularly civil society.

Had he misunderstood? The High Commissioner was highly critical of the PNG government’s record on engaging with civil society and while acknowledging a strong civil society lamented that :

“…there is little room for them to influence government policy.”

I am at a loss to understand what the Prime Minister found “comforting” in those words.

Furthermore, Mr Zeid went on to state that he was “troubled” to hear of the attacks against journalists (and others) working on sensitive issues. I wonder if he realized that one of those “attacks” would come as a direct order of the Prime Minister himself?

To add insult to the Prime Minister’s injury, the Commissioner’s visit and my criticism of his record in women’s issues coincides with a report from “Human Rights Watch’ whose opening paragraph states:

Almost 40 percent of the population in Papua New Guinea (PNG) lives in poverty. The government has not taken sufficient step to address gender equality, violence, excessive use of force by police, or corruption and relies heavily on religious groups and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to provide services on a charitable basis to meet the economic and social rights of the population. Rates of family and sexual violence are among the highest in the world, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted.”[my emphasis]

Expensive buildings erected to host APEC

The report also serves as a reminder that Australia is PNG’s most important international partner and provides over 70 percent of the country’s overseas development aid. Indeed, PNG is currently relying heavily on help from Australia to pull off a successful APEC – to make PNG look good in the eyes of the international community.

As an Australian rate payer, it is my hard-earned dollars (and many others) that will help PNG pretend that things are rosie – when all the while many PNG women are existing in what can only be described as a living hell – where fear is their constant companion.

It’s where husbands are compensated for the rape of their wives (as if someone has spoilt their possession) before the shamed (?) husband discards her to her own meagre and miserable fate – welfare is not a word with which the PNG government is familiar.

Yemeni women feed their malnourished children.

Indeed, the UN High Commissioner noted that the malnutrition rates in some areas of PNG were “comparable to Yemen.” – the poorest country in the war-torn Middle East. The UN has reported that Yemen is the country most in need of humanitarian aid in the world.

What a shameful comparison for PNG with its plethora of resources and my tax dollars at its disposal.

Under the circumstances, you’ll understand why I’d prefer not to contribute to Mr O’Neill’s vainglorious grandstanding.


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Who is really defeating the course of justice?

By PNG Echo

Attorney General, Ano Pala – arrest warrant quashed.

Attorney General, Ano Pala, has today had the warrant of arrest, extant since July 2014, quashed by a unanimous three-man bench of the Supreme Court – consisting of Justices Higgins, Sawong and Batari.

The warrant had been sworn out by Magistrate Cosmas Bidar at the behest of Police Officer, Matthew Damaru.

The charge leveled was ‘defeating the course of justice’ in conspiracy with others including the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Geoffrey Vaki and their respective counsels notwithstanding that most of these people were not a party to the proceedings at the time. The quashing of the arrest warrant means that the conspiracy charges are also not recognised.

Pala’s alleged sin, in the eyes of Detective Chief Superintendent Damaru, was to apply for the State to be joined to a matter wherein the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister had filed proceedings to legitimize (or not) bills paid by the state to Paul Paraka Lawyers by way of a declaration of taxation.

Paul Paraka, becoming a peripheral comncern in the saga that bears his name.
Paul Paraka, becoming a peripheral comncern in the saga that bears his name.

This is a most important question because if the Paraka bills are legitimate then no offence has been committed.

It is a way of getting to the truth – proof of a crime should be at the very beginning of an investigation (clearly no one has told this to Task-Force Sweep or the Fraud Squad.)

The truth is something that Police Officer, Matthew Damaru patently did not want to get in the way of a good witch hunt

I mean, how could trying to ascertain the truth be an attempt to defeat the course of justice?

Indeed, the three learned judges ascertained that Pala’s filing of proceedings

…is an act incapable of being a criminal act.

Further, they emphasized their ruling was timely (and lucky for some) as had Pala been arrested and denied his liberty, he would have had ample cause for redress.

Mikail overruled

One of the alleged co-conspirators - Geoffrey Vaki
One of the alleged co-conspirators – Geoffrey Vaki

With this decision, the Supreme Court overruled the previous decision of Justice Colin Makail in the National Court that dismissed Pala’s petition saying he had no standing to bring proceedings until after he was arrested.

Think about it: what’s the point of trying to quash an arrest warrant after its already been effected? But that’s what Justice Makail, in his wisdom decided – yes it baffles me too.

But it was not only that the charges were specious that caught the attention of the learned Judges but also the manner in which the arrest warrant was effected.

The faulty warrant

Magistrate Cosmas Bidar
Magistrate Cosmas Bidar who signed off on the arrest warrant

The Judges maintained that

…the warrant ha[d] received such little attention that the learned magistrate [Bidar] did not even choose whether the subject was “him or “her”.

The judgment went on:

It does not appear that any grounds were suggested to the magistrate… [although] …[t]he need to consider alternative grounds is mandatory.

Yet, even had the magistrate considered the grounds (which the bench found he hadn’t) apparently ”

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

And so the witch hunt continues.

Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr Aloysius Hamou
Deputy Secretary (Treasury) Mr Aloysius Hamou – exonerated – onlly doing his job

This is the second ruling this week that has found that the actions of the Fraud Squad have been cavalier.

For two years the Attorney General has had this charge hanging over his head – just because he lawfully sought the truth.

And then there’s the Deputy Secretary of Treasury, Mr Aloysius Hamou – described by all his work colleagues as a true and faithful public servant – who was sacrificed to the zealotry of these rogue elements in the Police Force who have become a law unto themselves.

He was also exonerated, found to be only doing his job in the purchase of the Israeli turbines matter – in fact, had he not obeyed the lawful directive from the NEC he would have been up on disciplinary charges.

I’m told Mr Hamou doesn’t enjoy the best of health, this episode, for an honest, fine and upstanding man, such as he, must have added a considerable amount of stress to his life, not to mention the loss of reputation.

When is someone going to stop these people?

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A matter of innocence

By PNG Echo.

Graham Romanong did not deserve to die.
Graham Romanong did not deserve to die.

For the tragic death of student Graham Romanong and the subsequent ransacking and burning of property, blame is being apportioned to almost anyone and everyone.

The opposition are blaming the government, the government are blaming the opposition while some are blaming non -student opportunists.

They all seem to agree, however, that the students themselves, and especially the dead student, are all’ “innocent.”  They’re not!

How do you plead…?

Students hold a meeting on campus
Students hold a meeting on campus

To suggest that the country’s recognised young intellectuals, who were politically agitating for a legally and democratically elected Prime Minister’s downfall, are sweetly “innocent,” is drawing a very long bow.

God help PNG, if these students, the future leaders and hope of Papua New Guinea –all young adults – were not aware of the possible consequences.

If they weren’t aware, then they are abjectly stupid, if they were aware, then where is the innocence?  Neither scenario is exactly desirable – there’s no third alternative.

829504683 (1)
Kenneth Rapa “My students are but human.”

In his press statement, Kenneth Rapa, student leader at UPNG, went to great lengths to condemn the murderous actions, yet he couldn’t resist the mitigation “…my students are but human…” while urging the public to have an “empathetic understanding” of what happened.

He at least didn’t use the word ‘innocent’ but that’s what he meant.

If you are not an infant and you commission an act – you are the one responsible. Not the 40-years-ago-exited colonial government for being…well…colonial, nor the beaten and murdered woman for being a woman, nor the government/opposition/police for urging/suppressing/provoking you.

No one was holding a gun to the students heads – in fact, it was the students holding the gun (metaphorically, in the form of blackmail – more on that later.)

The students provoked, intimidated and from there went on to commit murder – in an act of free will

Victim status

A campus building set alight.
A campus building set alight and burning

The word on the street is that the killing was retaliatory for the earlier stabbing of an Engan student. In other words, it is highly likely that the murdered student was not all that innocent.

The targeting of this student was not totally random – they knew who they were after.

Nevertheless, he did not deserve to die and the murderers must take responsibility for their actions.

A murder is a murder, and is not more horrifying because of the status of the victim’s virtue. One life is as precious as the next.

It is why I am against state-sanctioned murder (ie – the death penalty). It is the slippery slope. If we can happily agree to this type of penalty to legally kill a human being that is judged not worthy of life, how long is it before we start to decide outside of legal processes who should live and die?

And that’s exactly what’s happened here, it seems.

Enter the Commission of Inquiry

A popular British political satire called ‘Yes Minister’ that ran from 1980-1984 had the wily and savvy Permanent Head of Government (Public Servant) educating the forever bewildered Minister on Commissions of Inquiry thus:

The terminally bewildered Minister with his public service advisors in the political satire "Yes, Minister."
The terminally bewildered Minister with his public service advisors in the 1980s British political satire “Yes, Minister.”

Take an honorable retired judge, a doddering old fool, and put him in charge of the inquiry, with a sizable honorarium. Help him to arrive himself at the required conclusions. Feed him the appropriate facts and hint at a peerage. From there on, everything will work out as desired.

This is an overly-cynical parody of what is about to happen in Papua New Guinea.

And while there will be, no doubt, people uncovered whose role, behind the scenes was less than exemplary – ie vested interests – let’s not get carried away.

If there were those, in the political opposition, that will be proven to have bankrolled the students, inspired them and urged them on with promises, threats or whatever, then they should be brought to account. But, as my mother used to say,  “would you jump off a cliff, if she told you to?”

It all comes back to free will.

For while I suspect that the students were merely collateral damage to someone’s political ambitions, it’s not as if they were conscripts, they joined up.

As for the accusation that all this could have been stopped if the Prime Minister had stepped down – as per their demands. That argument is fatally flawed.

Demanding that the Prime Minister step down (or else) is blackmail. Blackmailers are never satisfied.

This is in evidence when the Prime Minister answered all the students’ queries and issues, in a very comprehensive statement – but they still weren’t satisfied. They wanted more.

Had the Prime Minister acceded to their demand and stepped down there would have surely been yet another demand.

The Prime Minister is right to protect his office from these sorts of extra-legal, unreasonable political demands.

All the students would have achieved is political mayhem and anarchy – a scenario that would have favoured the political opposition but not Papua New Guinea as a whole.

They need to wait until next year and try to remove this Prime Minister legally, if they can. It’s only then we’ll see who this ‘silent majority’ is that keeps being bandied around as justification for their actions.

The inquiry may well find that the students have been used by the unscrupulous and I concede that the finding of ‘cannon fodder’ wouldn’t surprise me – but make no mistake, ‘innocent’ they’re not..

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Damaru’s charges stayed: What irony, what blatant hypocrisy!

By PNG Echo.

Matthew Damaru
Matthew Damaru

Yesterday, Judge Polume heard an urgent application, ex parte (without the opposing parties) to stay the criminal charges recently levelled against Fraud Squad Officer, Matthew Damaru.

Ostensibly, according to her ruling, this was to enable Damaru to continue with his policing duties.

So what was stopping him, in the first place?

According to the press release of the RPNGC immediately following the arrest:

Mr Andrews [Deputy Police Commissioner] said whilst Mr Damaru is criminally charged for the alleged offences, he remains on active duty as Director NFACD and continues to perform his normal Constitutional Duties.

So what was so urgent?  Why was it held ex parte?  Why did the court entertain such an application?  What could the cause of actions possibly be when Damaru was still in position?

This was not an internal issue, this was an official investigated complaint by one of PNGs most senior judges.

Sir Bernard’s Case

To say that Sir Bernard Sakora “got off on a technicality” on the charges for which he was recently arrested, is to downplay the devious manner in which the arrest was effected.

Sir Bernard Sakora and the Chief Justice share a moment.
Sir Bernard Sakora and the Chief Justice share a moment.

In these circumstances, it is up to the Public Prosecutor to decide whether there is enough evidence to arrest someone.  I suggest that Damaru’s motives for not following the correct procedure may just have been because he was afraid the Public Prosecutor would say no. He was operating on the premise that it was easier to obtain forgiveness than permission.

But what he got was neither – and he should be made to answer for this treachery.

Irony and hypocrisy

Just in case you’ve missed the ironic and hypocritical part – Damaru has decided not to ‘submit’ to the court (as he and others of his ilk want the Prime Minister to do) but has decided to try to use the system to stymie the process.

Peter+O'NeillThat’s his legal right – but it’s also the Prime Minister’s.

However if I’d been screaming the line of “step down and submit to the process” as loud as Damaru has, I would now be very embarrassed at my own actions.

No sense, no feeling?

What’s more, people are constantly quoting how no one is above the law – well public perception is that Damaru now is.

On a popular, anti-government Facebook site one commenter wrote:

Today, as we write or speak, there is one man immune to the law and that is Damaru. Nothing will be done to him.

This was said, not in lament, but in triumph. The courts have a lot to answer for.

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Slip rule applications are rarely successful.

By PNG Echo

Justice Derek Hartshorn - Leave denied.
Justice Derek Hartshorn – Leave denied

That the leave sort by lawyers for the Prime Minister to apply the ‘Slip Rule’ to the recent Supreme Court ruling (lifting the injunction on arrests and harassment of the Prime Minister and his associates) was not granted today, is not surprising.

I don’t believe there is any case which has actually been granted leave to make a Slip Rule Application since the rules were changed in 2012 requiring that leave be granted.

What’s more, in this particular case the Justices who handed down the decision to lift the stay (Hartshorn, Makail, Sawong) are the ones that heard the leave application and would be naturally hostile to an application that suggests they erred.

A more satisfactory outcome would have been to have heard it argued before Judges with no pre-conceived ideas about the matters at hand – which, I concede, is becoming increasingly difficult in Papua New Guinea at the moment.

Interestingly, although the Justices stated that they would give an ex tempore decision, what they ended up doing was reading from a lengthy and widely-researched judgment that quoted extensive case law – including cases from Australia.

Nevertheless one of the PNG cases that counsel for the Prime Minister put forward in her submissions, MRA & Ramu Nico v Koroma (2015), the Justices resolutely refused to follow.

A decision that was 5 years in the making was discounted by this bench of the Supreme Court in less than an hour.  Indecent haste?

Patently, this case had been decided even before counsel made its submission in court this morning. There is little likelihood that this judgment could have been researched and written in the lunch break. It had been pre-judged (the verb from where we get the noun prejudice).

In practical terms, it means that their previous decision is upheld and the PM, his legal team and other people covered by the order can be arrested.

That doesn’t mean they should be.

For the police to be running around willy-nilly arresting people just because they can, is madness. Only in Papua New Guinea!

Citizens and others residing in Papua new Guinea need to feel secure that the law protects them, not declares open season on them – as has been suggested by many unrestrained commentators.

I believe that the stay order on the arrest of the Prime Minister on the Paraka matter is still extant – the court has not lifted this.

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Manus Island Detention Centre – Who’s running PNG?

By PNG Echo.

Behind the fences on Manus Island
Behind the fences on Manus Island

Firstly, let me go on record as saying that I couldn’t be happier that the abomination that is the Manus Island Detention Centre will soon cease to exist.

It has gone way beyond my ken to think that one government could conceive of such a place and another government go along with it and I said so, many years ago.

But forgetting about the asylum seekers (which they did) this treaty allowed political jockeying to strip both governments of all vestiges of humanity, to put political self-interest before the rights of the most unfortunate men, women and children.

Thank goodness at least one player, Papua New Guinea, has come to its senses, at last. But with the stone already thrown in the pond the ripples are bound to continue.

The politics.

What a tragedy, they’ve drowned before we could turn them into an election issu

The reasons this treaty was signed were at best cynical:

At the time, the then Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was in his death throes and thought this punitive, but popular policy in Australia, would pull him out of the doldrums – it didn’t – and it suited subsequent Australian governments to leave it in place. No asylum seekers on the shores of Australia means one chronic political headache (regardless of the reaction to asylum seekers in Australia being out of all proportion to the scale of the problem) was solved. Now gimme them votes.

As for Papua New Guinea, I’m supposing that, in return, a substantial monetary consideration (aid) was negotiated (although, I have read the latest Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Australia and PNG – and the exact quid pro quo is not articulated). But more than this, knowing what a political hot potato ‘boat people’ are in Australia, for the PNG government to have done Australia such a huge favour gave PNG considerable political leverage with the most powerful nation in the Pacific.

It suited Prime Minister O’Neill, who has been trying to maintain PNGs sovereignty against intrusions by it’s nearest neighbour and former colonizer, with OkTedi springing immediately to mind.

So, with Manus in his arsenal of negotiating tools the pendulum would have seemed to always be in PNGs orbit. – just how the Prime Minister wanted it.

But, regardless of the reasons, it was, nevertheless, a signed treaty between two sovereign nations – a pact, however Faustian

Now, one party wants to resile – to break the agreement.  There are bound to be consequences.

Possible consequences

Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton

It’s all very well for the Australian Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, to state that the court decision in Papua New Guinea is not binding on Australia, because while he may be right, it’s binding on Papua New Guinea, and when Papua New Guinea sneezes, Australia will catch the same cold.

And Australia is going to be kicked out, just like they were when the Supreme Court ruled the Enhanced Cooperation Program unconstitutional under the Somare government.

For Australia, the situation must not only be inconvenient but just a little irksome in that the MOU between the two countries states that

The participants may jointly decide to vary this MOU in writing.

About this decision there is no “jointly’ – only a unilateral decision by PNG.

It is an internal problem that has become a headache for an international partner – and an important partner at that..

As in so many cases recently in PNG, the problem involves the Executive at odds with the Judiciary.

It’s really not good enough for the PNG government to say that there’s little they can do because the Supreme Court has spoken – all of these little glitches should have been ironed out before the treaty was signed.

For PNG to come to the conclusion that the treaty is unconstitutional, almost 4 years after the signing of the initial agreement is criminal. Someone should have been dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s before the fact not engaging in crisis management like this.

I can’t imagine that this incident won’t damage the reputation of PNG internationally. I’m sure that PNG will be eyed with some suspicion and approached with some caution when it comes to any bilateral, multilateral or any other international treaties for some time to come.

I know, were it me negotiating, I’d want to know who was running the country and I’d certainly ask for Judicial assurance before I’d do business with PNGs executive – the incident has affected the credibility of the executive government.

By all means fight the internal battles – but for international purposes PNG should have a united front

…but you promised

Hon Ronny Knight, current MP for Manus
Hon Ronny Knight, current MP for Manus

What’s more, there are many people in Papua New Guinea who had pinned their hopes on the continued operation of the detention centre, especially Manusians – and they’re not going to be happy either.

Already Hon Ronny Knight, Member for Manus is panicking. He told the press:

If it has to be closed down it has to be closed down, but we still need our roads fixed.  It’s not our fault this happened – we’ve been promised certain things still yet to be fulfilled.

Mr Knight has tried to distance himself and his constituents from Papua New Guinea – and he can’t.

Papua New Guinea has reneged on the contract (and by association Mr Knight and his constituents). It will not be fulfilling its part of the bargain – how can he then expect Australia to fulfil theirs?  PNG is at fault as far as the breaking of a pact is concerned, how do they expect that they will emerge unscathed?

In history, wars have been fought over broken treaties, national sanctions have been imposed –  I doubt that Australia is considering anything like this and may even decide to bow out gracefully, but now, Papua New Guinea has lost its biggest bargaining chip. So many bets will be off – the landscape will change.

You’ve heard the saying “marry in haste: repent at leisure,” well I think this applies to this situation too – PNG (and Australia too) signed in haste and they’ll now be forced to repent in their own good time.

ADDENDUM: I have read the Supreme Court judgment, where all five judges (Salika, Sakora, Higgins, Kandakasi and Sawong) are in accord.
In this judgment the main protagonists weren’t forgotten nor ignored (at last). Indeed, Justice Higgins came back to a quote, more than once, that asked if what was happening was

reasonably justifiable in a democratic society having a proper respect for the rights and dignity of mankind?

I think he’s got it – what a shame he’s four years late.


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Political shenanigans in PNG: Could the Chief Justice be involved?

By PNG Echo.

Veteran former ABC Journalist and Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, has called the recent spate of political and judicial wranglings in Papua New Guinea “stranger than fiction,” but are they really?

Paul Paraka, ignored in favour of the Prime Minister.
Paul Paraka, ignored in favour of the Prime Minister.

It’s about power: wars have been fought for it, sons have killed fathers for it and innocent people have become a victim to it. And while the quest for power is rarely altruistic, hypocritical usurpers often invoke altruism to justify their lust for it.

And so it happens in Papua New Guinea where the desperate, wanting the head of the Prime Minister, say they’re fighting corruption. But how can that be when they ignore the main perpetrator, Paul Paraka, in favour of a dubious political target whose downfall would be beneficial to their goal of taking over government?

So who are they?

We don’t know for sure and it seems that they want to keep it that way – in fact lawyer Tiffany Twivey is of the opinion that her arrest was to prevent her from cross examining Sam Koim, on the witness stand as to the source of his funding.

It’s not lost on me [that] I was arrested the day before this final attempt to try and get the truth out there,”

Twivey stated.

Lawyer Tiffany Twivey
Lawyer Tiffany Twivey

Certainly the public faces of the unholy crusade are Sam Koim, and Fraud Squad officers Matthew Damaru and Timothy Gitua, but they can’t be acting on their own – they couldn’t afford to be, neither in monetary nor career terms.

Anywhere else or in any normal situation that would be sedition,

said Tiffany Twivey of their maverick arrest spree carried out in secret without the knowledge of their boss.

But not so in Papua New Guinea where actions that would be seditious in less unruly contexts are backed by judicial decisions that are often “stranger than fiction.”

For while the political support for the action of the rogue police is self-serving, hypocritical, mal-intended, it is expected – politics is like that.
(I believe that MP Kerenga Kua, sacked attorney-general and Sir Michael Somare’s former lawyer has coughed to the funding in an interview recorded by the ABC correspondent in Port Moresby and about to be aired on Australia’s 7.30 report – if it hasn’t been already.)

But nevertheless, and in spite of the separation of powers, none of this could have happened without the support of certain members of the judiciary whose rulings have oftentimes bordered on the bizarre tacitly condoning the anarchical actions of the rogue police while ensuring they remained answerable to no one.

Judicial decisions

Lately, one can almost predict the outcome of a legal case in matters involving the Prime Minister just by which judge the case will be before.

Justice Colin Makail has made some rulings that defy logic – deciding to hear a case, for instance, out of logical sequence rendering the second case potentially inconsequential, when it shouldn’t be.

Sam Koim - who is funding him?
Sam Koim – who is funding him?

It’s in the matter relating to Task Force Sweep where he decided to hear the substantive case without first hearing the charges of contempt and subjudice contempt against Koim. If Koim is found guilty of such contempt his case could (and arguably should) be thrown out – but it can’t be if it’s already been heard.

And as far as things subjudice are concerned, Justice Makail has recently queried something that COP Gary Baki published and has asked for submissions on whether it is subjudice. However, when Sam Koim published a paid full-page article on the case in the newspapers, not a single judicial eyebrow was raised – and this is in spite of the fact that it was not only subjudice contempt that could be alleged but also Koim was defying a court directive preventing such a breach.

Then there’s Justice Kirriwom who referred lawyers acting for the Prime Minister and Police Commissioner to their statutory body on a wrong premise.

COP Gary Baki - the courts making his job maintaining discipline tough
COP Gary Baki – the courts making his job maintaining discipline tough

Then again, Justice David Allen arguably (and I’m sure the lawyers are preparing to argue this in court) overstepped his jurisdiction by interfering in police administrative matters. His ruling directly contributed to the potentially dangerous situation where, in an attempt to bring his men into line, the Commissioner of Police had to use some of his men against others of them – something he should be never forced to do.

So why do certain elements of the judiciary appear to be politically compromised? Is the Chief Justice implicated?

The Chief Justice

This is a question for which I do not have the definitive answer – but there are things I do know, things told to me, usually in confidence, but always told with believable conviction and with a proviso that their name not be mentioned – one doesn’t cross the Chief Justice (CJ), apparently.

Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia - the judiciary's fearsome leader
Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia – the judiciary’s fearsome leader

You see, the CJ, ideally considered to be ‘first amongst equals’, is so much more in PNG.  Indeed the name of the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, is whispered in awe and trepidation in PNG legal circles, I’m told.

“My Lord and Master,” is how one Judge facetiously described the Chief Justice – and while there was certainly an element of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm with that remark, I’ve no doubt that were the CJ to say “jump” the response would be “how high.”

What’s more, the CJ has considerable influence within the Judicial Legal Services Commission (JLSC), which is the body that appoints judges. Although a five-member team makes the appointments, it is said that the CJ dominates.

It was a surprise to most when the late Justice Mark Sevua was not reappointed to the bench. Indeed, I have heard lawyers who’ve appeared before the learned judge wax lyrical about the privilege. However, he had not kept on the good side of the CJ whose dislike for Sevua was manifest when he failed to attend his funeral but left it to the Deputy Chief Justice instead.

The cognoscenti are also aware that there is no love lost between recently-arrested judge Sir Bernard Sakora and Sir Salamo either, (although there is no evidence that connects the CJ with his arrest – just a sneaking suspicion, based on recent bizarre judicial decisions).

So, it is in the best interests of a judge coming up for re-appointment – or indeed any other time – to keep on the good side of this powerful man. I’ve been told by those same cognoscenti that the CJ neither forgives nor forgets.

If that be true, then he would have a considerable grudge against this government over the impasse.

Belden Namah - as he stormed the Supreme Court with his 'storm troopers' to arrest the Chief Justice, mid session
Belden Namah – as he stormed the Supreme Court with his ‘storm troopers’ to arrest the Chief Justice, mid session

And understandably so – I still cringe when I see the footage of Namah storming into the court yelling: “Arrest him.”  How ignominious to the office of the Chief Justice and the Chief Justice himself to have to cower behind the locked door of his chamber against this crass onslaught.

One has to wonder whether this crosses Sir Salamo’s mind when involved political identities come within his jurisdiction – before his courts?  Revenge is a powerful emotion.

Because under the current system, it is the CJ who decides which judges sit on appeals in the Supreme Court – a considerable power – I wonder on what criteria he makes his selection?

For Sir Salamo Injia is a Chief Justice whose conscience and scruples allowed him to stop a legal case against himself and also to disregard the Supreme Court Act to deliver judgment in the second case between Prime Minister O’Neill and Sir Michael Somare after two of the judges of the five-judge bench left – it’s an ominous precedent on how Sir Salamo is prepared to wield his power.

Has he been doing that here – or am I adding 2+2 and coming up with five?

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Maladina Innocent.

By PNG Echo.

Jimmy Maladina - Innocent.
Jimmy Maladina leaving the courthouse after being found guilty

A unanimous decision by a three-man bench of the Supreme Court (Gavara-Nanu, Sawong and Higgins) upheld the appeal by Jimmy Maladina against his two convictions: conspiring to defraud and misappropriation in the National Provident Fund matter (NPF) that reaches back almost two decades.

it’s taken a while to established that Jimmy Maladina is innocent – but he always has been.

Maladina’s conviction was based on conjecture and misdirection and was a clear case where justice was miscarried according to reviewing Judge Gavara-Nanu.

It is all about more of that ‘trite law’ that I wrote about in my previous article on the judicial decision that quashed Damaru’s suspension.

This time, the law that convicting judge, Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) Gibbs Salika failed to understand (according to his fellow judges) thus allowing him to bring down a guilty finding in the Maladina case, was the fundamental paradigm that western law is built on – the presumption of innocence and the onus of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Justice Gavara-Nanu said in his judgment:

The view taken by the trial judge was of course contrary to the law relating to the burden of proof in criminal trials viz; proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution always carries the burden to prove every element of the offence charges.

Earlier in the document he stated:

…the trial judge had effectively shifted the burden of proof to the appellant to prove his innocence. This is evident from the trial judge’s statement that it was “incumbent” on the appellant to give evidence and explain the issues raised by the prosecution…

This burden [of proof] never shifts to the accused,

Justice Gavara-Nanu said.

But the DCJ had tried to do just that, maybe because there was precious little of prosecution evidence –  and the little that there was available was circumstantial and able to be imagined in more ways than the prosecution had presented or backed up with evidence.

Continue reading Maladina Innocent.

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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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Mikail J – putting the Koim cart before the PMs horse.

By PNG Echo.

Court-Ruled-In-Koim-s-Favor-teaserIn the National Court, yesterday, Justice Makail adjourned two motions that arose as a result of Sam Koim’s alleged contempt – when he published material about the Task Force Sweep’s case in contravention of a court order that expressly forbade him.

The first motion asked the court to dismiss the entire judicial review into the disbanding of Task Force Sweep (the substantive matter) on account of the breach of the order while the second motion sought to have Sam Koim punished for the contempt.

Justice Makail, in his wisdom, decided that the substantive matter should be heard prior.  What the…?

So what’s the point of contempt laws?

The whole point of the laws of sub judice contempt and the point of the court’s ruling that Koim not publish anything about this case, was to avoid the case being tried in the court of public opinion and risk that public opinion influencing the court’s decision. (Me, I am of the definite opinion that a full-page advertisement in a national daily newspaper just may be construed as carrying some influence – is there even a question?)

Furthermore, it has been argued by Professor Michael Chesterman, Professor of Law and Acting Judge, District Court of New South Wales, that “stopping the trial and fining the media [the offender] – should either occur together or not occur at all [in the finding of a charge of sub judice contempt].”

Under the circumstances, it seems logical that the contempt charges be heard first as they will quite likely have a profound impact. in law and in actuality, on the substantive case – indeed if Koim is found guilty and the motions succeed there may not be a substantive case to try.

So where’s the logic in this ruling?  In making this ruling, Makail has managed to effectively make at least one of the motions  absolutely pointless – that’s not how it should work.

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