The answers are contained in the revelations of ‘ Dr Susan Merrell’s newly-released book ‘Redeeming Moti’.
In it she successfully unravels the complexities of a political situation that was conflated with heinous sexual criminal charges to give a compelling explanation and analysis of a saga that involved four nations, brought down one Pacific government and threatened another.
Told through the experience of the author when, during the court proceedings, she sought to reveal what was being hidden behind a veil of contempt promoted by the nature of the charges. In the effort to redeem Moti, did she end up losing herself?
There is no doubt that Moti has been the victim of a shameful political power struggle – the High Court of Australia recognized that when they ruled in his favour.
And it didn’t begin and end in Australia – this was a political power struggle in which, Sir Michael Somare, then the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, chose to aid the Australian authorities to break Papua New Guinean laws to achieve their ends in spite of the breach of Papua New Guinean sovereignty.
It is mooted (in two commissions of Inquiry) that Sir Michael then broke more laws to get rid of Moti before the Papua New Guinea courts had the opportunity to scrutinize his illegal co-operation with the Australians in what has become to be known as ‘The Moti Saga’.
The human consequences
By now, he should be a Judge, an International Jurist or even the Secretary-General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
These would have been the reasonable aspirations of Julian Moti (QC), the former Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands; after all, he was always a strong advocate of the sovereign rights of Melanesian Nations.
It was a passion for which he paid dearly.
Because, instead of this stellar career trajectory, Moti is living hand to mouth, in his native Fiji, trying to patch up a career that will never recover from the stigma of the charges dredged up by Australia (under a different statute) that the Vanuatu courts had dealt with and dismissed a decade previously.
It was abuse of power by the Australian authorities in their bid to dominate the politics of the Pacific that halted the career and fortunes of Julian Moti It was ‘abuse of process’ that the High Court of Australia found when it granted a permanent stay of prosecution to Moti at the end of 2011 on the regurgitated Australian charges of sex with a minor that the Vanuatu courts had thrown out over a decade previously.
You don’t bounce back easily from charges of this nature. Just the accusation is enough to unfairly stain your character irrevocably.
For the Australian authorities, the nature of the charges was fortunate – it was an effective smokescreen for the political motivations that drove this prosecution
In 2006, Moti was Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands; the current Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare was Prime Minister then too. Both nationalistic in their politics and vehemently opposed to the Regional Assistance to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) – they wanted them out. Moti is recorded to have said,
RAMSI came to do good, but stayed to do well.
On 29 September 2006, Moti was at Jacksons Airport, Port Moresby in transit to Honiara (from India via Singapore) where Sogavare was facing a vote of no confidence for which he needed his Attorney-General’s advice.
It was a motion that the Australians were hoping would be successful – having an antagonistic Prime Minister in the Solomon Islands did not suit their purposes. Under the circumstances, the last thing they wanted was Moti’s considerable influence and political expertise to come into play. So they made sure it wasn’t and didn’t – with the aid of Papua New Guinea.
Moti in Papua New Guinea.
The belief in the sovereign rights of Melanesian countries is what Moti says disappoints him so profoundly about what happened in PNG. Moti explained:
I know in what great esteem the people of Papua New Guinea hold the Mama Lo – and yet here were the PNG authorities arresting someone without a warrant, taking them into the country, against their will and without the necessary documentation [such as visas] on the request of a foreign authority pursuant to an out-dated Extradition Act [and therefore illegally], while charging him with a crime over which they held no jurisdiction.
What am I doing here?
was the question Moti asked repeatedly of the PNG authorities.
Moti was in PNG unwillingly and illegally by the express authority of Don Polye (Deputy Prime Minister) acting for Sir Michael Somare (Prime Minister) and most likely in consultation. (Sir Michael was away in the Provinces at the beginning.)
I was completely shocked that the founding father of Papua New Guinea was prepared to compromise the country’s sovereignty in this manner and I’ve often wondered to what end,
In the final salvo, Moti was an unwilling participant in the clandestine PNG Defence Force flight (under the radar) that delivered him to Munda in the Western Provinces of the Solomon Islands on the eve of when he was expecting a court decision on his bail – which Moti was confident would be granted. Moti is a firm believer in the rule of law.
The court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the charges – Papua New Guinea cannot prosecute a case originating in Vanuatu – even if they could, there would be the problem of double jeopardy,
he explained. Nevertheless…
Just before dawn on October 10 2006, Moti found himself landed on the tarmac at Munda airport in the West of the Solomon Islands.
He had been dumped in the middle of Papua New Guinea police armed with machine guns who were confronted by a RAMSI Land cruiser obstructing the runway. The Australians were waving revolvers and shouting threats.
It was a terrifying event to witness,” wrote Moti. “I was afraid I’d be shot in the crossfire.
That previous evening, the now late Joseph Assaigo, Intelligence Branch Chief at the Office of the Prime Minister, had called to the Solomon Islands Chancellery (where Moti had sought diplomatic asylum) to tell Moti that the government could no longer guarantee his safety. A secret operation had been planned and Moti should be ready. The terms were not negotiable.
Sir Michael has never explained nor answered for his role in the Moti Affair, in spite of two inquiries implicating him.
Was the illegal, clandestine flight an attempt to deny the PNG courts the opportunity to scrutinize the executive decisions of the Somare government is a question that Moti has often asked and contemplated with this writer.
Making it right
Many PNG laws were flouted to placate Australian political ambitions in the Pacific (as the Ombudsman’s Commission Report attests and admits) – and Moti believes he is owed an explanation as well as compensation.
Sir Michael was compensated for being ousted from his position as Prime Minister to the tune of K5 million
I am left wondering why I am the only one to have suffered the consequences of this blight on Pacific politics – while others, who have been far more culpable, have escaped scott free?
In other jurisdictions: Moti’s Australian claim was referred to mediation under the terms of a confidential agreement with the Commonwealth Government while the former Gordon Darcy-led Solomon Islands Government publicly admitted its liability (in Parliament) to pay compensation and outstanding remuneration but Moti is still awaiting payment.
She had been hacked with a machete – opened up from her sternum to her pelvis. Her intestines were exposed and spilling out from her cut abdomen. She’d been disemboweled.
The graphic pictures that appeared on Facebook came with the explanation that this was done to her, by her husband, in retaliation for adultery.
Were it in the Middle East, we’d shake our heads and maybe say: “It’s typical of those radical Muslims with their Sharia Law and their lack of respect for women,” wouldn’t we?”
Well it wasn’t. This occurred in a stridently Christian country from where it is said that at low tide, one can walk to Australia
It happened on Australia’s doorstep
It occurred in Papua New Guinea – where atrocities against women happen regularly and despite being Australia’s closest neighbour and the recipient of upwards of $450 million of Australian aid annually, these things are seldom reported.
What’s more, the PNG press themselves are often apathetic and fail to report. There is not nearly enough outrage. The PNG press contains a cross section of the community at large, many who’d consider that the arbitrary punishment fit the crime (and would be able to quote the bible passage that backs their assertion.) The status of women in PNG is abysmally low.
As I put pen to paper, some Papua New Guineans, this morning, will march on the PNG Parliament in protest against the Prime Minister’s refusal to step aside from his post and submit to the arrest warrant taken out last week.
It is their right to do so and I hope the protest goes well.
As far as timing goes, the march coincides with a sitting of parliament – meaning that the police have more powers under laws that protect MPs to ensure that parliament is not interfered with.
It makes the situation more potentially volatile than it would have been had it been organized for another time.
Dirty deeds…done dirt cheap
Unfortunately, in PNG, the ‘anti-corruption’ movement has a strong taint of political influence and the timing of this crisis is a testament to that.
Neither has the Prime Minister been slow to use some deft political moves to prevent his downfall, including the sacking of dissenting ministers and public servants and the disbanding of Independent Task Force Sweep (ITFS) – the leading agency in the investigation of the Paraka matter for which the Prime Minister is implicated.