Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moti case sets international precedent for Wikileaks

By SUSAN MERRELL

Former attorney-general of the Solomon Islands, Julian Moti, has given instructions to his Port Moresby lawyer, Peter Pena, to lodge a substantial claim for compensation against the state of Papua New Guinea within the next few weeks.

As this scenario plays out in Papua New Guinea, so history repeats itself in the United Kingdom.

Anyone who was domicile in the Pacific in September/October of 2006, may be getting a strong sense of déjà vu from the situation of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, has sought and been granted asylum by the Republic of Ecuador against a British extradition order.

Assange is of the belief that the proposed extradition to Sweden to face sex charges would unfairly put him within reach of the United States of America who wants him to face charges for his part in the Wikileaks revelations.

Assange is surrounded by a hostile British state that has agreed to his extradition  – outside the embassy asylum lapses and British police are on hand, waiting to arrest him.

Julian Moti, in 2006, was in the same situation, for much the same reasons, when he sought asylum at the Solomon Islands Chancellery in Port Moresby.

He was seeking diplomatic refuge from a proposed extradition from PNG to Australia to face charges that were as blatantly political as those of Assange.

He too was in a reasonably safe but uncomfortable oasis surrounded by a potentially hostile state with law enforcement officers outside "baying for blood,' according to Moti.

"When Julian Assange mentioned to the press about police climbing the stairs of the building trying to break into the embassy, it reminded me of six years ago when police tried to enter the Solomon Islands' Chancellery in Port Moresby through the ceiling to extract me," said Moti speaking from Sydney yesterday.

Indeed, if you substitute Britain for Papua New Guinea, Ecuador for Solomon Islands, USA for Australia and Sweden for Vanuatu you get an uncanny duplication of the Moti saga by the Assange case.

The impasse ended for PNG with Moti's clandestine removal on a PNGDF aircraft. Who would have thought, at the time, that the Pacifc would set an international legal and diplomatic precedent with this controversial case - a case that is still being debated in legal and political circles?  Will Britain follow suit, I wonder?