PAPUA New Guinea has too long a history of corruption and too little has been done to expose it, investigate it and prosecute it.
In 2009, the Ombudsman Commission, Transparency International and other organisations worked on a “commission of inquiry” into massive corruption valued at more than K780 million within the Finance and Treasury Department.
This was during the Somare regime and it helped to destroy his government. The alternative government under Peter O’Neill and Belden Namah was formed to much applause and it promised to expose corruption and bring to justice those found guilty.
After discrediting the Somare regime and in power for only a few months, the O’Neill-Namah government went to the polls in 2012 but the political marriage between Namah and O’Neill was shaky due to issues only known to them.
In the end, O’Neill managed the numbers required and his People’s National Congress party formed a new government to run the country and expose corruption.
It marched into Parliament and immediately established a special anti-corruption body – Investigation Task Force Sweep.
In parliament, Belden Namah, by then the only opposition MP, teamed up with Dr Allan Marat and Sam Basil to ask some serious corruption related questions. One concerned was the Paul Paraka legal service invoices of which Namah produced evidence.
Only after Namah fired those questions did the saga come under media and public scrutiny - another massive corruption scandal of more than K102 million.
Task Force Sweep was confident it had more than enough evidence and continue to develop charges against those involved. This led to the arrest of the principal of Paul Paraka, who is now out on bail.
Task-Force Sweep, now disbanded, had already prosecuted a number of corruption cases and, according to chairman Sam Koim, there are more cases with concrete evidence that he would take to trial if he could.
It is estimated PNG loses more than K200-million to corruption each year, but it may be a lot more.
With the National Anti-Corruption Fraud Directorate the only surviving entity struggling to fight the corruption, and it is under siege, PNG urgently needs the support of the Australian Federal Police and Interpol. But it is unlikely they can intervene if Peter O’Neill wants to keep them out.
In recent times, the call by two former prime ministers, the opposition, university students backed by the academic staff associations, civil society and thousands of individual Papua New Guineans for the prime minister to step down has reached a crescendo.
Since a warrant of arrest was served to O’Neill in June 2014, several attempts have been made to delay due processes and these have so far not been resolved.
Looking at this matter from outside, one can perceive that the O’Neill-Dion government has delayed, obfuscated and done away with proper investigations.
Such dictatorial behaviour and conduct by leaders and their cronies are of great concern to the people of Papua New Guinea. And this is the reason why students at the country’s two largest universities have taken a stand to protest and call for the prime minister to step aside and allow investigations to continue.
Despite huge pressure and the university students boycotting classes, Peter O'Neill sees fit to continue to hold office. He has demanded that the students return to classes and said he will not step down.
It seems that O’Neill is fighting a losing battle – he knows he is losing because he has no reasonable answers for a long list of many serious questions.
These include: why was Investigation Task Force Sweep disbanded when it was primarily set up to expose corruption? Why is O’Neill going to the media to argue his case and trying to avoid the courts? Why did police commissioner Baki set up an unprecedented ‘vetting committee’ to screen all the high profile fraud cases? Is this more red-tape meant to delay the judicial process? Will the current corruption charges against Peter O’Neill be the first to test the screening process through this newly formed committee?