KUNDIAWA - Public confidence in the police force and judiciary as independent and impartial state agencies of the state has drastically declined under the leadership of Peter O’Neill.
Meddling in appointments and in the operations of the police and hard-to-understand decisions of the courts has raised serious doubts and mistrust in the minds of the people.
Increasingly the independence and integrity of the two institutions are being questioned.
As the political numbers game in the lead-up to a possible vote of no confidence intensifies and as a mass exodus occurs of government MPs to the opposition, prime minister Peter O’Neill had no choice but to relinquish his position.
Whether he actually does this in favour of Sir Julius Chan or thinks of some other escape tactic, it will be a last minute do-or-die manoeuvre for his own survival.
That O’Neill has not resigned but stepped down “for a few days” means he could resume his position anytime.
As of yesterday, the opposition had 63 members and the government 47. There were more defections expected from those who still remained in the government but the opposition said it had shut its doors to them.
As D-Day gets nearer, perhaps today, the formation of a new government looks certain.
Should this occur, one of its first tasks needs to be the restoration of the integrity and independence of the nation’s law enforcement institutions.
Under the O’Neill government, these vital state institutions have been severely impaired
There has been the dismantling of the corruption-busting Investigative Task Force Sweep and the termination of its members, Peter O’Neill’s parachuting of Gary Baki into the job of police commissioner and the Supreme Court’s quashing of the UBS loan case against O’Neill.
There has been the continuous suppression and eventual closure of the Parakagate affair by O’Neill and Baki without a proper trial, the storming of parliament by the ‘disciplined’ forces, never properly investigated and a much-promised anti-corruption commission never delivered.
These are just a few examples of malpractice that have contributed to the decline in public confidence of two vital state institutions.
If and when a new government takes office, one of the first items of businesses must be to restore the independence, credibility and integrity of the judiciary, the police and the public service.
This means that all heads who took political sides and practiced nepotism during O’Neill’s tenure should be replaced with neutral personnel through proper and transparent appointment processes.
All allegations of corruption that have not gone to trial must be resurrected and justice meted out.
Those found guilty must be punished by law both to restore confidence in the judiciary but also as a wholesome bid to rid Papua New Guinea of corruption.
To give credence to this effort is the passing of an ICAC – Independent Commission Against Corruption - bill into law. The bill must be looked at again to ensure it is totally free of political interference and manipulation both in the appointment of its personnel and in its operations.
The unpopular and unnecessary dual citizenship law must also be repealed to prevent law breakers escaping from PNG.
If the economy is to grow and civil society is to enjoy prosperity, peace and harmony, the country needs a vibrant, independent and impartial justice system and related law enforcement agencies.
The laws of a nation not only protect its citizens but they are the compass that directs the course of the nation. The laws must be strong, respected, upheld and they must work fairly in the interests of every citizen.