NOOSA – If I may mix a couple of metaphors, it seems that former Melbourne Grammar boy cum rumoured O’Neill government ‘fixer’, David (Silver Fox) Johnson, has gone to ground after setting the cat amongst the pigeons.
On Wednesday last week, PNG businessman Emmanuel Narakobi shared on Facebook a post by airline company, Ajot, about how it had, on behalf of the PNG government, flown 40 luxury Maserati sedans from Milan to Port Moresby for use during next month’s APEC forum.
Their purchase and means of eventual disposal have been subject to conflicting stories from various PNG ministers including the prime minister. Let us just say the whole deal – which involved in some capacity former Sri Lankan cricket great Aravinda de Silva – is very murky.
Minutes after Narakobi shared the article, he was contacted by a person with a Facebook account called ‘Silver Fox’, who messaged: “You must immediately take down posts of Maserati [or] APEC security act will be inacted [sic]”.
The same person then contacted Narakobi by SMS - “Need you to immediately take down FB posts concerning recent airport photos... It is a security risk under APEC joint task force... Please call me, David Johnson.”
The implied threat, asserting that the APEC Safety and Security Act 2017 would be invoked, worked. Narakobi immediately took down the post and so it seems did Ajot, which apparently had been sent a similar message.
But none of this went unnoticed. Opposition MP Bryan Kramer expressed his anger, scores of other people on social media agreed with him, the incident was shared far and wide, and Silver Fox went to ground.
Johnson is an Australian expatriate who arrived in Papua New Guinea sometime in 2015. He lives in Lae where he established a financial advisory business, acquiring a shelf company and registering himself as the sole director and shareholder of Karama Consulting Limited.
He’s an old boy of the prestigious Melbourne Grammar School and an alumnus (bachelor of economics) of Monash University. Johnson’s Linked In account also says he’s a member of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Last year was a busy year for Johnson. He is said to have worked for the electoral commission during the controversial national election, although there is no suggestion he did or knew about anything improper, and registered two other companies, Karama Developments Limited (residential and commercial property development) and Karama Health Limited.
Linked In also reveals him as a one-time consultant to the PNG Institute of Technology, presumably in his financial advisory capacity.
In 2018 it appears Johnson has broadened his range of interests to include APEC and cyber security and he is widely believed to operate as a ‘fixer’ - someone who fixes problems - for Peter O’Neill and his cronies.
One source told me that Johnson’s intervention in this case sounded like "a well-intentioned warning of somebody who is trying to loyally serve an institution.”
While the opinion of another was that “as a former property developer, I don’t think he has a clue about human rights and democracy. He’s associating with the wrong people in the wrong team.”
Whatever, right now Silver Fox seems to be lying low and waiting for the controversy to subside. But he has annoyed many influential people, even though the politicians who have publicly chastised him are not in government.
David Johnson has learned the hard way that, if you want to be an effective ‘fixer’, the first step is avoid drawing attention to yourself.