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Ombudsman Commission has the power to investigate PM O’Neil: PNG Court

The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has ruled that the Ombudsman Commission has the power to investigate Prime Minister Peter O’Neill regarding the Government’s “alleged improper borrowing” of K3 billion from an overseas bank in 2014.

Justice David Cannings handed down the decision Thursday on behalf of a five-man bench made up of Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Justice Panuel Mogish, Justice Stephen Kassman, Justice Terence Higgins and Cannings.

“They know that we have consistency in our policies and remain a business-friendly government.”

He highlighted the evolution in the oil and gas sectors “that is creating even broader investment opportunities”.

“Increased efficiencies in our resource sector are bringing greater returns on investment in a tough global climate, and this will see increased returns as global conditions improve,” he said.

“Our future gas developments will be a broader mix of LNG exports, downstream processing and local power production.

“We will also be using this gas to meet the need to deliver reliable and affordable electricity for our industries, business and households.

“So when you look at oil and gas investment in Papua New Guinea, there is broad scope to work with us to further develop this sector to the maximum benefit.”

In July last year, the National Court had referred to the Supreme Court 11 questions of constitutional interpretation and application which had arisen during court proceedings started by O’Neill against the Ombudsman Commission.

O’Neill had challenged the jurisdiction of the commission regarding its investigation into the conduct of various government bodies and officers on “an overseas bank loan obtained by the Government”.

O’Neill had also challenged the powers of the Commission to distribute a provisional report of that investigation which contained comments he considered “adverse and derogatory of him”.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling, answered the 11 questions, and resolved on the four central issues it had identified, that:

*Under the Organic Law on the Ombudsman Commission, the commission can investigate the conduct of the prime minister;

*under that Organic Law, the conduct of the prime minister can be the subject of comment or findings when the commission publishes the results of an investigation;

*the commission is not obliged, before investigating the conduct of the prime minister, to inform him of its intention to make the investigation; and,

*the commission can in any report published by it under the same Organic Law, make comments involving the interpretation or application of constitutional laws.

The 11 constitutional questions were referred to the Supreme Court by (the late) Justice Catherine Davani on July 19.

The loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland was to purchase 10 per cent shares in Oil Search Limited. The loan was approved by Cabinet on March 6, 2014.

The case now returns to the National Court to be completed....pacnews

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