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By Staff Reporter : PNG Today

Our Corruption Watchdogs must be given ample teeth to bite

Commentary by  Bernard Gomba

Background Facts

Papua New Guinea as a nation has its anti-corruption agencies and authorities which are created by law and policy to address corruption related issues that affects the nation.
The Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (the Constitution) establishes the Office of the Ombudsman Commission under Section 217(1) of the Constitution with the main powers and functions to investigate corruption related matters and refer the person responsible to the Public Prosecutor to be charged and prosecuted in the Court of law.

The Constitution also establishes the Police Force as one of the State services under Section 188(1)(b) and the Police Act,1998, provides for further functions of the police force and wherein the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate falls under. The main purpose and functions of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate is to investigate fraud and corruption related matters and charge the person responsible to be prosecuted before the Court of law.
In the interest of fighting corruption in this country, the National Executive Council (NEC) in the O’Neil Dion Government chaired by the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, established the Task Force Sweep Team to investigate and fight corruption related matters in the Government.

Currently, all three (3) said anti-corruption agencies and authorities established by law and policy are in a state of inexistence. The Task Force Sweep Team was disbanded by the NEC chaired by the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, for the reasons only known to him when he was investigated by the Task Force Sweep Team for authorizing payment of K71.8 million legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers.
The Chief Ombudsman of the Ombudsman Commission has not been appointed for two (2) years now after the last Chief Ombudsman had referred the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, to the Public Prosecutor to be charged and prosecuted for unlawfully securing K3 billion loan from Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) without approval of the Parliament. The Office of the Ombudsman Commission and its staff including the Acting Chief Ombudsman are currently there but the Chief Ombudsman who has the power to refer the Prime Minister or any other person is not appointed for more than a year for the reason that is only known to the Prime Minister.
The National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate had been suspended by the Police Commissioner who has been appointed by the National Executive Council chaired by the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, after the Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Mathew Damaru, made attempts to arrest the Prime Minister. The Directorate has been reinstated because of the National Court’s intervention but is still ineffective as there will be a screening process of high profile cases yet to be introduced by the Commissioner. Further, the Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate and his officers are suspended and not allowed to occupy the Directorate to fully and effectively continue their investigations of cases and those high profile cases such as that of the Prime Minister.

All these three (3) anti-corruption agencies and authorities of Papua New Guinea are now being disbanded, suspended, destabilized and ineffective and that they are currently inactive to fully and effectively perform their functions and responsibilities to fight corruption in this country.
Purpose of Protest and Referendum
Since the Government has gone ahead to shut-down and destabilize all the anti-corruption agencies and authorities established by law and policy in Papua New Guinea, there are no other alternative anti-corruption bodies established by law and policies left to address corruption related issues in this country at the moment.
Having no other alternative anti-corruption body available in this country to address pending and forthcoming corruption related issues affecting the country, the Students of the University of Papua New Guinea have risen to call on the Government and the Prime Minister,Peter O’Neil, to realize this fact.

The Students are neither part of a government body or a non-government organisation nor they have political ambitions and interests or whatsoever to do with the Government. They are merely neutral body with vested interests in studies and do act as conscious of the community when the need arises such as in this case.

As conscious of the community, the Students have now taken the stand to voice concerns in the absence of the anti-corruption agencies and authorities for and on behalf of themselves and those citizens of this country who cannot think and/or speak for themselves as they would.
The Students have now stood up and declared a peaceful protest against the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, to step down. In doing so they have conducted a referendum with ninety per cent (90%) of the student’s voted for the Prime Minister to step down and hand himself to the Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Mathew Damaru, and his officers so that he could face charges like any other ordinary citizens of this country.
The Students are calling on the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, to step down and prove his innocence in the Court of law like every other Papua New Guineans have been doing.
Position of Prime Minister
The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, has come out in the print media and other media sources declaring that he would not step down. His message to the Students and the public is that his letter authorizing the payment of K71.8 million legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers was
forged and that there is lack of evidence for him to hand himself to the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate.
The Prime Minister cannot say that the letter subject of his arrest is forged or not genuine. There is no other person in this country, even the Prime Minister, has the jurisdiction to determine and declare whether a thing is forged or not forged. It is only a judge or a magistrate has the jurisdiction to determine and declare that a thing is forged or otherwise. Since when did the Prime Minister being appointed as a judge or a magistrate? The Prime Minister cannot take it upon himself to perform the functions and responsibilities of a judge to decide and declare that his letter is forged. He further cannot assume the responsibility of the Court to call for insufficiency of evidence. Let the Court decide on the forgery or otherwise of his letter and the insufficiency or otherwise of the evidence against him.
The Prime Minister cannot use the media to tell the Students and the public that the letter subject of his arrest is forged or not genuine. The media is not the right forum and the Students and the public are not the right recipients of his claim. He has to go to the Court and tell the judge that his letter is forged or not genuine. He must not attempt to find ways to clear his name by airing his claim to the public and the Students through media. This only creates more doubt to the genuineness of his letter. He must go to the Court to clear his name.
The Prime Minister cannot tell the students and the public that there is no evidence for him to hand himself to the Police to execute his arrest. The only evidence that warrants his arrest is his letter, thanks to his self-sponsored publication of it at his expense for the public to know. There is no other evidence needed to warrant his arrest. There is no need for evidence to prove that whether he benefited or not from or part of the K71.8 million legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers as a result of his letter. So long as it is proven that his authorization for the payment through his letter amounts to abuse of public funds, misconduct in office and blatant disregard to or violation of court orders in place restricting payments of legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

The position and actions of the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, is such that he is playing a judge in his own trial by way of media to the Students and the public. He cannot be cleared by the media until and unless he is officially cleared by the Court. As the Prime Minister of this country, he has to lead by example and hand himself to the Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate to face charges than looking for ways to clear himself through the media. His refusal to hand himself to the Police and continuing to evade charges is a bad precedence for the good future Prime Ministers of this country to following. Facing the charges and going to court to clear himself is the right and only way by law to clear his name. Let alone the Court decide on the legality of his letter and the sufficiency of the evidence against him when the case is rightly before it.

Position of the Police Force

The Police through Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, Metropolitan Superintendent, Ben Turi, and others have come out on print media and other media sources preventing the
Students from protesting and declaring the protest illegal as it would cause opportunists to involve in riots and unrests.
The Police cannot prevent the students from protesting. If the Police want to keep the opportunists from riots and unrests then it should diligently conduct its functions and responsibilities of preserving and maintaining peace and good order in the community under Section 197 of the Constitution to the extent that it does not violate the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association and movement of the Students as citizens of this country provided under Sections 46, 47 and 52 of the Constitution respectively.
The Police must not laze about in performing its functions by just stopping the students from exercising their constitutional rights and freedoms. It must strive to keep peace and good order on the ground whilst the protest is held by the Students and the public there and then. It is its functions to keep peace and good order to the extent that it does not violate the constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens.

The Police cannot say that the protest is illegal. There is no other authority in this country, even the police, has the jurisdiction to decide and declare whether an act, a thing or an issue is legal or illegal. It is only the Courts have the jurisdiction to determine, decide and declare the legality or illegality of an act, issue or a thing. Since when did the Police being made the Courts to perform the functions and responsibilities of the Courts? The Police cannot perform the functions and responsibilities of the Court to decide and declare that the protest by the Students is illegal. Let alone the Court decide on the legality or otherwise of the protest when it is rightly before it.
The position and actions of the Police stand in direct violation of the constitutional rights and freedoms of the Students as citizens of this country to stage a peaceful protest against the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, for him to step down. It is for the very reasons such as the position and actions taken by the Police that had prompted the wisdom of our founding fathers to guarantee us the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association and movement as a democratic country.
Position of Members of Parliament
There are Members of Parliament like Honourable Malakai Tabar, Honourable Peter Ipatas, Honourable Ben Micah and others who have come out on print media and other media sources telling the Students end boycotting of classes and let politicians as mandated by the people of this nation to deal with corruption related issue of the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil.
The issue of Prime Minister authorizing the payment of K71.8 million legal bills to Paul Paraka Lawyers is a long outstanding matter dating back to 2011. What have the Members of Parliament done since being mandated by the people of this nation in 2012 National Election to seriously address this issue as a matter of national interest on floor of the Parliament, in Courts or wherever they could to this date? What guarantee do they have to
show that they would address it now when they have failed and have continued to fail to do so since 2012?
The Students have waited patiently until closure of the last anti-corruption agencies in the country, the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate. Now the Directorate is weaken and cannot perform its functions as it was with its officers. Given this situation, the Members of Parliament have yet failed to stand up and address this fact and that has prompted the Students to rise and voice their concerns.
Let it be known that it is the failure of the Members of Parliament to address this corruption related issues of the Prime Minister for so long that prompted the Students to rise on their behalf to speak for those citizens of these country who cannot speak for themselves and who cannot think for themselves as they would. Let it be known that the risk of the Students losing their studies for this 2016 academic year is on the hands of the Members of Parliament in failing to address this issue of national interest.
Government Actions

The Student body and the public now wonder as to what kind of a Government of the day in its right and reasonable mind would shut-down and destabilize all the anti-corruption agencies in this country? What is the message from its actions? What kind of a picture does it paint? Is it let us hide out corrupt activities or let corruption prevail in this nation?
The actions of the Government speak for itself. The Members of Parliament, Police, the public and all should now see how and where this country is heading with the destabilization of the entire anti-corruption agencies of this country. We do not have effective check and balance systems anymore because the Courts cannot prosecute with the anti-corruption agencies investigating and referring matters to Courts for prosecution.
The Courts just cannot work without the absence of these anti-corruption agencies. The check and balance system of this country effectively fails.

Position of Students

The Students of the University of Papua New Guinea have now sacrificed their classes and studies and have risked their 2016 academic year to call on the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, to step down and hand himself to the Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate and his officers to face charges. Let it be written in the history of this country that their failures this academic year for the good of this country is on the hands of the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil.
The Student body also calls on the Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, and Metropolitan Superintendent, Benjamin Turi, and the Police to allow the Student and the public to stage a peaceful protest against the Prime Minister to step down. The Police must truly perform its functions and responsibilities without fear or favour and must not be used by the Government for its political gain.
The Student body further calls on the Public, Non-Government Organization, and the Civil Society to stand up and help fight corruption in this country in the absence of the anti-corruption agencies, as currently there are no other alternative anti-corruption agencies left to effectively fight corruption.

Let us all collectively fight corruption for the good of this great country and for our children and their future. Our judicial system alone cannot effectively and efficiently function without the existence of these anti-corruption agencies. They are watchdogs, they stand guard to bite the ugly face of deception, fraud and dishonesty therefore they must be given teeth. The legislature must give ample provisions to animate these offices. The simple rule of democracy in this country is NO man is above the law; all men are subject to the same law. One man cannot hold this nation to ransom, he must swallow his ego and make way for justice to rule again.
Let’s fight corruption together Papua New Guinea.

Posted by Staff Reporter : PNG Today on 5:56 AM. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Share this Article

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