A MASSIVE K71.8M WALKED OUT of the Finance and Treasury Departments and no one (including members of parliament) knew or had the guts to say anything about it. It was truly a blatant abuse at best and, most likely, official corruption.
The money was allegedly paid to a law firm, Paul Paraka Lawyers, with the aid of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Finance Minister James Marape, Treasure Don Polye and officers from their departments.
The issue was not known to other MPs, bureaucrats and Papua New Guineans until a copy of an alleged letter from the Prime Minister somehow reached Opposition leader Belden Namah and his minority group in Parliament. Mr Namah then lodged an official complaint with the police for an urgent investigation into the matter.
Immediately after the report, the Prime Minister engaged Investigative Task Force Sweep to carry out inquiries. That’s where the Parakagate saga investigation started. Thanks to both Peter O’Neill and Belden Namah for initiating the investigation into this matter.
As we can see now, the issue is very complicated as it concerns allegations of official and systematic corruption by departments and people we call custodians of the people’s money.
Despite Namah’s public statements at several gatherings (such as the “for the love for my people and motherland” rhetoric on Facebook and PNG Attitude), many people have criticised him in other social media, newspapers and other forums.
Most Papua New Guineans realise that the Opposition Leader has done all he could to unveil the truth. Let’s not look at his past, but look at how tough he is to put under close scrutiny some of those illegal practices.
After the Paraka issue was reported, Mr Namah, as a plaintiff, did not favour Task Force Sweep carrying out this investigation because the Prime Minister was one of the people allegedly involved.
The Opposition Leader asked Mr O’Neill to relinquish the Police portfolio, as the case was with the Police. However, the PM refused and has held on to the position for almost seven months. Many people have asked whether this means that the PM has no confidence in other MPs.
Well, we know that Task Force Sweep was formed, funded and aligned with the National Fraud Squad of the Police Department by the then O’Neill-Namah government during the political impasse of 2011. So Namah believed that there would be bias in the investigation as O’Neill was PM and Minister for Police at the same time.
Some people, especially those who are pro-government, criticise Namah for his previous actions like the Sydney casino sex, the Bewani deal for Vanimo forests, his actions during the overthrow of the Somare regime in August 2011, and action against PNG’s Chief Justice during the political impasse.
In social media, newspaper, FM radio talk back and other forums, some people criticise Mr Namah, saying he should stay away from the Parakagate saga and should not take action against the PM, the Ministers and the Police Commissioner.
However, if Namah had been silent throughout this Parakagate saga, I don’t think this serious issue would have been uncovered.
As a result, he put himself in some jeopardy. The Police Commissioner obtained a search warrant against Namah and tapped his mobile phone after alleging that he had undermined the Police Department in a letter addressed to the Commissioner’s office.
If the RPNGC, as it used to be, is an independent body performing its constitutional duties without fear or favour, one needs to ask why didn’t they tap Mr O’Neill’s phone before Namah’s?
Why didn’t they forensically test the PM’s signature on the alleged forged letter? And why did they let O’Neill off scot free despite knowing that only courts have the power to convict or exonerate a suspect upon evidence? The police should just present what they found in the investigation.
It seems there is no transparency and independence here. People have lost confidence in Police, Defence and Justice Departments as the law-enforcing agents in this country because many officers from these departments have abused their constitutional duties.
The same thing was going on with the previous Somare government over almost nine years.
We may have a few people convicted in this Parakagate saga. We may recoup some of the millions lost. If so, it will be thanks to tough scrutiny by this former military officer and the toughest Opposition Leader we’ve ever seen in PNG.
Thumbs up, Belden Namah! Thumbs up Investigation Task Force Sweep led by Sam Koim. We are with you. We believe truth will remain truth at the end. Do that job with the people at heart.