BY KEITH JACKSON
Mr O'Neill has been a supporter of reopening the facility just as he is a firm backer of resource projects including the $16 billion LNG project being built in his native Southern Highlands (he is the MP for Ialibu-Pangia).
The son of an Australian magistrate and his wife from the Southern Highlands, Mr O’Neill was a successful businessman before entering parliament, leading the People's National Congress.
He was leader of the opposition in 2004-07, and joined the Somare government after the last election. Early last year he replaced Patrick Pruaitch as treasurer and finance minister after Mr Pruaitch stepped down over corruption charges.
But there remains an unresolved matter that goes to Mr O’Neill’s integrity and that, in the few weeks that remain before he is finally endorsed as prime minister, he should clear up.
On 28 October 2002, a Commission of Inquiry into fraudulent activity related to PNG’s National Provident Fund directed counsel assisting “to refer Mr O’Neill to the Commissioner for Police to investigate whether he should be charged with perjury concerning his evidence on this issue”.
On 22 November 2002, the Post-Courier reported that the Commission had found that Mr O’Neill, “had definitely benefitted from the proceeds of the NPF Tower Fraud”.
There the matter seems to have rested for nearly nine years. But it continues to hang over Mr O’Neill’s reputation and it raises questions of his suitability for the nation’s top job.
Time to clear the air, Mr O’Neill.
Photo: Peter O’Neill is escorted from parliament to be sworn in as prime minister [picture by Susuve Laumea]