PETER O’Neill’s arguments against stepping down as prime minister to allow law enforcement authorities to investigate allegations of misconduct in office focus on his assertion that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
Based on this position, he has fought tooth and nail, both in court and out of court, to stay in the office of prime minister of Papua New Guinea.
The out-of-court tactics he has used (like killing Task Force Sweep, changing justice ministers, removing a police commissioner, trying to get rid of the chief magistrate) are signs of a power-hungry individual.
The in-court battles he has fought seem unlikely to come out in his favour in the end because lawful processes are guaranteed under the Constitution and the Supreme Court is likely to uphold clear principles of good governance.
There are two fallacies of O’Neill’s argument concerning ‘lack of evidence’.
One, it is not for him to determine whether there is evidence of any wrongdoing because only a court can make that determination. The ridiculous thing is that when the court (or tribunal) want to make such a determination, he finds a way to put a stop to it.
I do not believe the Constitution gives O’Neill (or anybody else who is alleged to have committed a crime) the authority to make such a determination. Everyone else submits to the due process of law, so who is Peter O’Neill to not to do the same?
If it is just because he is prime minister, then this is probably abuse of office. It really should be the other way around; because he is prime minister he should be the first person in the country to show respect for the public office he holds.
He also should do two three other things: resign from office; voluntarily attend at the police station and answer questions; and cooperate with police and leadership code authorities to have any case against him heard and determined.
Those would be the marks of a true leader who cares about protecting the integrity of the office of prime minister. This is not to say that he should forego his individual Constitutional rights, because the recognition of his rights is integral in the legal processes involved. His rights would be observed as a matter of course.
The only criterion under the Leadership Code (section 27 Constitution) that Peter O’Neill (or any leader) is required to be concerned about is whether his conduct (or what is alleged against him) may give rise to doubt in the public mind as to whether he could have a conflict of interest, might be compromised, might be demeaning the office of prime minister or has allowed the integrity of the office of prime minister to be called into question or has endangered or diminished respect for and confidence in the integrity of government.
The general public of PNG may not know these exact wording of the Leadership Code, but it is their general understanding of things that a leader should submit himself to the law and cooperate with law enforcement authorities.
The bottom line in the Leadership Code is the protection of the name and integrity of the public office that the leader holds. In my mind, Peter O’Neill has forgotten this very important principle.