DATELINE PACIFIC | Radio New Zealand International
PAPUA New Guinea's newly appointed acting police commissioner, Geoffrey Vaki, has been arrested and is to face a charge of perverting the course of justice.
It is the latest development in an increasingly fractious legal battle around police attempts to question the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill with regard to his alleged role in huge illegal payments made to Paraka Lawyers.
Mr Vaki was appointed Commissioner on Monday to replace Tom Kulunga, who some reports say was forced into retirement by the Cabinet after receiving a jail sentence last week for contempt of court.
RNZI correspondent Todagia Kelola has been following events, he spoke with Don Wiseman:
TODAGIA KELOLA: In court this morning, he instructed the police lawyers to go and consult with the Prime Minister's lawyers and investigators who are investigating this matter are not happy with the direction and we were told that as soon as Mr Vaki came in, he wanted to stall this investigation in which the investigating officer with the support of the hierarchy of the current management arrested him for perverting the course of justice.
DON WISEMAN: Amongst the hierarchy of course is Simon Kauba, and Simon Kauba has now been stood down?
TL: Yes. Whilst this thing was happening at police headquarters, the national executive council had a meeting and revoked his appointment as the deputy commissioner of operations, and also I'm told that they've terminated him from the police force.
DW: So he's been sacked?
DW: And how has he reacted?
TL: He hasn't said anything to us but the Police Association through their President and executives have thrown their support behind the current management, and they've called on the Prime Minister to come in for the interview and not to stop anymore senior police officers. They're standing in solidarity and they don't want any political interference.
DW: The next thing that's happened today was Sam Koim, the head of Taskforce Sweep, this body that's put the Prime Minister in the spotlight over the Paul Paraka affair, his force has been disbanded. That has to be a shock?
TL: Yes, it's a very surprising move and the Police Association has appealed to the Prime Minister to refrain from interfering on what he himself put together this body and now he's dismantling it.
DW: There is, in the wings, plans for an independent commission against corruption, but that's still some way off, isn’t it, so in the meantime there's going to be no anti-corruption body there?
TL: Well, yes, the government is planning to create that body but it is yet to be... so at the moment Taskforce Sweep, all the investigations in other big white collar crime cases will now be stopped because there is nobody to investigate.
DW: The other highly controversial moves made by the government, the removal of the Attorney general Kerenga Kua supposedly because he didn't support planned constitutional changes, but it's come at a very opportune time for the Prime Minister, shall we say?
TL: Yes, Kerenga Kua was terminated or removed from his portfolio because of this. The government stated it was because he was not supportive to constitutional changes, but with the current... Sam Koim, although he is the chairman of Taskforce Sweep, he's also an officer in the Solicitor General's office which comes directly under Mr Kua. It's Kua who he gets instructions from and it's probably something to do with this current investigation.
DW: If one joins the dots, it's an interesting story. One of the other outcomes today is the push by the Prime MInister to avoid being arested by police, and he's been successful up to a point.
TL: Yes up to a point he's been successful. But Geoffrey Vaki being arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice... the lawyer, what instructions he'll get and who will be the police lawyer now that the police commissioner or the NEC-appointed commissioner has been arrested and charged.
DW: What do you anticipate happening next after an eventful Wednesday?
TL: Well with these events, the police force - although the association and the management are saying that they're solid, there may be some factions in the force who may be loyal to the NEC-appointed commissioner. The association are very mindful of that and they're appealing to all the policemen around the country to concentrate on their constitutional duty of maintaining law and order and to just ignore what the politicians are trying to do with the force.
DW: At this point in time, the force has lost two commissioners this week, who is in charge?
TL: A very good question Don. Tom Kulunga, when he said he was going to leave, he recommended Simon Kauba (for the Commissioner's role) but Simon Kauba has been terminated and the NEC-appointed commissioner has been arrested and charged. Now, there is only the deputy commissioner administration, Awen Sete, and he might fill the shoes or if not, the newly appointed deputy commissioner operations, Jim Andrews, might be the acting commissioner.