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TI’s each way bet on Somare suspension

THE CHAIR OF Transparency International PNG, Lawrence Stevens, says the suspension of Sir Michael Somare on misconduct charges shows the law has taken its course.

Mr Stevens said that while there were many legal delays before the case was referred, it’s pleasing there has been a result.

“It is very sad that the prime minister of PNG has received a sentence like this.

“There will be many people who say that it’s insufficient and there will be others who feel he’s been treated in an undignified manner.

“But overall most people are pleased to see that the law has been applied and that leaders are reminded that they do have responsibilities.”

Lawrence Stevens says the tribunal does not seem to have established whether the Prime Minister’s failure to file returns was deliberate or an inadvertent mistake.

The chairman of the Leadership Tribunal, judge Roger Gyles, is also chairman of Transparency International in Australia.

Source: Radio New Zealand International


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Paul Oates

When we kiaps had recourse to use the Queensland Criminal Code, we had no idea it owed its origin to such a distinguished personage.

What a pity the recent Leadership Tribunal hearing wasn't considered under the old Criminal Code and in a kiap's court?

I wonder what Sir Samuel Griffith might make of the recent Tribunal's deliberations?


Peter Kailap

It would seem that it was all a total waste of time as Somare continues to carry out the duties of Prime Minister whilst under suspension.


Clearly he feels that it was just a joke and he is too big a man to abide by the orders of the Tribunal.

Reginald Renagi

What a stupid 'p***-weak' remark from TI. This is a statement of appeasement.

It is made by someone who may later on not really believe in the strength of his own conviction.

This statement comes from an impotent position and gives some idea as to where the TI will now be coming from.

Obviously, PNG has the wrong chair for its TI Chapter.

I wonder what the former Chair, Peter Aitsi, thinks of this statement.

Peter Kranz

Luther Wenge has attacked the Ombudsman in today's Post-Courier and supported the Maladina amendments that the Ombudsman Commission be abolished.

Oseah Philemon wrote the story.


MOROBE Governor Luther Wenge will move a motion the May session of Parliament to abolish the Ombudsman Commission.

He wants the powers of the Commission transferred to a new body which will work much more effectively, fairly and transparently.

“The Ombudsman Commission is no longer serving its purpose and it must be abolished,” Mr Wenge said in Lae at the weekend.

Mr Wenge said the length of time the commission had taken to prosecute the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare for alleged misconduct in office showed that the Ombudsman Commission was no longer effective.

“It is selective in which leaders to prosecute and it seems it is deliberately going after some leaders while leaving others out,” Mr Wenge said.

“There is public allegation and perception that this is what is happening,” he added.

“There are leaders who are guilty of misconduct in office but the Ombudsman Commission has failed to charge them.

“Instead it is selecting only some to prosecute including the prime minister,” he said.

Mr Wenge congratulated Sir Michael for his courage and showing statesmanship in going through the whole leadership tribunal.

“The result is fair and all is now behind him. The Prime Minister after serving out his two-week suspension should return and run the country to the 2012 general elections.

“In the meantime I am going to move that the Maladina Bill be brought back before Parliament for debate.

“It is time to scrutinise what the Ombudsman Commission does and if it means abolishing it then I will move that this action be taken.

“The Ombudsman Commission has failed to uphold the Leadership Code it is supposed to be enforcing. It is guilty of misconduct in office,” Mr Wenge said.

David Kitchnoge

You'll always get these sorts of outcomes when you get foreigners, whose fingers are not on the pulse of the nation and whose hearts are beating at a different rate, involved with domestic matters.

We see a lot of such things happening these days – not only in the justice system but also in other sectors of the community as well.

Well intentioned decisions and actions by foreign “experts” on a subject matter that completely miss the local context and hence are irrelevant.

Harry Topham

Paul’s comments are very pertinent. As some old politician once remarked “ Don’t initiate any enquiry unless you know what the outcomes will be and, if forced to do so, ensure the terms of reference are narrow”.

Where’s Wikileaks when you need it. It would be interesting to know whether in the reported 300,000 cables they received any referred to matters PNG.

To the issue. Reading between the lines, I guess that the terms of reference on this latest Leadership Tribunal matter would have been confined to simply the guilt or otherwise of whether Michael Somare failed to lodge the required returns and, if so, what penalty should be applied as some form of censure.

Such narrow terms of reference would perhaps have precluded those tribunal members from engaging in any forms of enquiry as to exact details of Michael Somare’s true financial position.

From what was reported in the newspapers, Michael Somare put forward the defence that he was unable to obtain the required salary information required and apart from his “salary” his only other forms pecuniary interests came from the interests in a family company.

This issue does not appear to have been followed through by the prosecutor in the case who could have simply asked the defendant, "Doesn’t the taxation department require that all employers provide employees with annual payroll group certificates".

And, if this did not occur, then ask the question, “Did he who holds, the highest position in the government then enquire as to why this did not occur”.

The full details of the transcript of this matter do not appear to be available, maybe as a matter of public interest they should be.

The second issue relating to disclosure of his business interests should have attracted more close cross-examination by the prosecution.

I am unaware of the current status of the statutory regulator that monitors and administers the Companies Act in PNG but my understanding of the law covering such matters is that persons who hold positions of directorships of companies are required by law to submit annual returns to that authority which would normally include Balance Sheets and Profit and Loss Statements.

If this didn’t occur why hasn’t that relevant authority further pursued this matter and why did not the prosecution in this case further follow up this line of questioning.

It was reported in the local newspapers covering this matter that the defendant’s legal excuses relied upon the premise of “acts of omission” whereby he stated that he was unable to provide the required information as it was not available to him.

This line of defence appears to have been discarded as erroneous by the tribunal members but the inferences of lesser culpability taken into account as mitigating circumstances in the light later penalty ensuing.

To me it would appear that the nub of the issue relates to the raison d’etre of the legislation administered by the Ombudsman Commission and the requirements of parliamentary members to provide information transparency thus removing any possible allegations of graft or conflicts of interest arising.

It would then follow that any person holding public office who was legally obliged to declare all their pecuniary interest to the Ombudsman and who, without holding out legal excuse to the contrary, by associated non disclosure would then appear to have something to hide and in the case of parliamentarians be then guilty of the more serious offence of misleading parliament.

If such a situation arose, those who fail to provide the required information could be viewed to have something to hide then it would follow that the relevant authorities would have the right to pursue the matter further and if required, subpoena the financial records of such miscreants.

It would appear that from the relative light penalty imposed in this case then the wise judges must have believed that there was no case to answer relating to the Prime Minister being guilty of directly misleading parliament.

The issue of providing transparency through the current provisions of legislation administered by the Ombudsman commission appear to be inadequate as the minor penalties available under that legislation seems to be more related to Public Service type scenarios rather than that, which should apply to those holding high positions of authorities.

It is a tenet under modern law that those who break the law whilst holding positions of trust face harsher penalties that those of their more common peers.

Colin Huggins

I find it rather strange - even bizarre - that not one comment on this whitewash verdict has come from any PNGian? Why?

I agree totally with Paul, but we both live in Australia and are out of any type of harm's way that could be forthcoming after 14 days!

Paul Oates

Sorry. That's total cop out and a white wash by TI.

If one judge can see where the PM should have been dismissed then that could have been the benchmark that the other two should have applied, given the total contempt of the PM for complying with the law.

The country was holding it's collective breath and waiting, hoping someone, anyone, would deliver a just verdict. The result may have indicated the law has been applied but the penalty set an extremely poor precedent for any future legal action.

Why wasn't the PM's actual income and sources pursued? Why were his assets not reviewed?

Why would the PM or anyone else covered by the same legislation now be concerned about any future requirement to comply with the Leadership Code or any other piece of legislation?

Lydia's suggestion that there could well have been other considerations being acted out 'behind closed doors' may yet be revealed in the future. If PNG has a change in government that is.

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