SANDLINE PERSONALITY JERRY SINGIROK, HERO OR ZERO?


NIUGINI OUTLOOK

Before we hear any outcry from the loyalists screaming that Niugini Outlook is in the pay of this, that or the other politician, or that Niugini Outlook shouldn’t throw stones at glass houses because we probably live in one too, let us tirelessly and cheerfully address those complaints as follows. First, anyone bothering to look through the more than 1,500 posters and associated articles on our Facebook site knows very well that we pick on anyone who deserves to be picked on because of unethical or illegal actions as public personalities, especially those who are in jobs that are expected to serve the public interest. Yes, Peter O’Neill is an adulterer but Sam Basil is too and we’ve called them both out. Yes, Patrick Pruaitch is a major crook and so is Belden Namah. James Marape is a fraud and so is Don Poyle. We’ve called them all out.

What is our moral authority to call these people out, don’t we at Niugini Outlook also commit sins and live in our own glass houses, so to speak? Maybe we do. Is it hypocrisy for us to sin while decrying the sins of others? Definitely so, if in fact we’re committing the same sins as those we’re complaining about. So what is the point of us calling out the sins of public figures, especially public servants?

At Niugini Outlook we feel that the authority is not on our shoulders but on the sides of those who are public figures. We stay anonymous in large part to present ourselves from becoming public figures and personalities that invites to clamour for us to run for public office and all that nonsense. We have a fairly simple objective: To be the voice of reason and the voice of conscience. Being anonymous gives us far more power to serve those roles.
Anyone who becomes a public figure does so willingly and knowingly. Anyone becoming a public figure knows that they will be held up as a role model. Role models are always expected to set a good example, not a bad one. When they set a bad example anyway, they either demoralize the rest of us who are trying to do better or they inspire young people especially that it’s ok to cheat on your wife or husband, or misuse funds given to you in trust, or whatever.

Bad role models can destroy a nation. We hardly need them in PNG.

We believe that out of 10 million population we can surely find a thousand people who are not adulterers, always use money given to them in trust in the way that money was supposed to be used, and aren’t abusing their positions as public servants to personally make themselves wealthier. Surely we can find a thousand people in all of PNG whose conduct is beyond reproach?

We are optimistic that it is possible. That brings us to the focus of today’s posting, Jerry Singirok.

Jerry Singirok used to command the PNG Defence Force. He was shot in the wrist while actively trying to retake the Panguna Mine from Bougainville landowners. He spoke out strongly against Sandline, and that was important in leading to the standing down and ultimate humiliation of of Prime Minister Julius Chan, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Haiveta, and Defence Minister Mathias Ijape, all of them crooks on the side. Jerry Singirok is lauded as a hero, not a zero.

The real story, of course, is more complicated.

First, Jerry Singirok initially supported hiring the white African mercenaries to come to PNG to slaughter our black brothers and sisters in order to get the damn mine open in the name of money, money, money. In April 1996, Ijape, Defence Secretary James Melegepa, and Brigadier General Jerry Singirok met white African mercenaries Tim Spicer and Tony Buckingham for initial talks in London. Spicer was the lead agent for Sandline. Later that month, Singirok met with Spicer and Michael Grunberg (Branch Energy Ltd), bringing back to the PNG government a proposal, titled Project Contravene, which proposed the use of white mercenaries to slaughter black Bougainvilleans. Singirok told Ijape he thought it 'looked good’. Ijape raised the idea with Chan, who initially was uninterested. Specifically, Project Contravene aimed to kill or capture key BRA/BIG commanders and to capture and hold the mine. The proposal also contained suggestions for part-payment to be made with mineral concessions and a joint mining venture, all for the benefit of foreigners of course! Three months later, Chris Haiveta met with Spicer while in London while on other (???) business. Haiveta was strongly attracted to the proposal and invited Spicer to PNG to lay out his proposal before the Prime Minister. That’s how Sandline all started and Jerry Singirok played an important initial role in getting the disaster started.

Later, of course, Singirok had second thoughts, got cold feet, and came out against Sandline, at first in private, but later in public. His reservations were about the high costs (over K100 million at a time when the kina was worth 3 times what it’s worth now). He didn’t like the role of the PNGDF Special Forces Unit and the suitability of the helicopters to be used. He felt that his authority was being undermined (for far too many of our public servants, at the end of the day it’s all about power, isn’t it?). He didn’t like how little money was going to the PNGDF Special Forces Unit to mount this attack (for far too many of our public servants, at the end of the day it’s all about money, isn’t it?).

Let’s take a breather from this and make another observation about too many PNG public servants. Corruption stories often come out in PNG not initially because formal investigations uncovered the corruption but because a whistleblower spilt the beans and made a hidden corruption story public. Only then did the formal investigations start. Let us make another observation: Whether or not we are talking about PNG, it is a fact that many whistleblowers spill the beans and divulge the corruption story not out of conscience or a desire to fight evil, but because they’re angry, jealous, or both at the perpetrator. In other words, the corruption story oftentimes doesn’t come out for noble reasons, but very self serving ons.

That is how the ultimate corruption of Jerry Singirok came out. It was none other than the highly corrupt Julius Chan who spilt the beans. Just as Peter O’Neill made sure he was first in line last week to tell all of PNG of Michael Somare’s connection to kickback money deposited into Somare’s secret Singapore bank account, Julius Chan, who was infuriated with the damage to his reputation that Singirok had caused, made public that Jerry Singirok had been taking kickback bribes. Singirok denied everything. Then someone, perhaps Chan or perhaps not, smartly avoided the unreliable and erratic Post Courier and instead sent bank statements to the Weekend Australian newspaper. The evidence procided showed that a total of nearly US $52,000 had been deposited in dribs and drabs into a secret UK bank account under the name of guess who? Jerry Singirok!

Jerry Singirok had been taking kickbacks from an arms dealer in the UK by the name of J & S Franklin. Franklin Arms was, in essence, competing with Sandline to get PNGDF monies to buy weapons.
The bank account was connected to a VISA debit card. The card had been used to get cash advances, pay the bills for stays in nice hotels, used to buy airline tickets, and even for the services of a custom clothing maker tailor in Singapore. Nothing but the smartest dress for Jerry Singirok while he was fighting in the jungle, maybe?
Only after the hard evidence was produced and published for the world to see did Jerry Singirok confess.

Of course Jerry tried to give an explanation that it was all an innocent misunderstanding (it is obvious that Michael Somare and his legal team are working overtime at this very moment trying to come up with the same kind of nonsense excuse over the Singapore kickbacks). Specifically, he claimed that the money, the whole secret bank account and visa card setup, were all “presents”. He said they came about because of his friendship with Sidney Franklin, founder of the arms firm. He furthermore stated that he – Jerry Singarok – had not ordered any equipment from J & S Franklin.

Bullcrap. Of course, Jerry’s loyalists will say that Jerry is innocent until proven guilty in court. Maybe true legally, but not true in reality, neither in PNG nor anywhere else. All the available evidence + common sense logic = Jerry Singirok was a crook.
The most telling evidence, apart from the bank account itself and who set it up for him, is the fact that during the Sandline Commission of Inquiry, Jerry Singirok denied that he had been offered any benefits by Franklin arms (after this was exposed by Julius Chan).

Any innocent person bends over backwards to explain any possible indication of impropriety. In fact, an innocent person does this proactively. Jerry Singirok, in contrast, lied about it.

Jerry Singirok was collecting favours from a potential client, looking to tap into the PNGDF defence budget for weaponry. No doubt about it.

In the nearly 20 years since, Jerry Singirok has experienced a resurrection of sorts in the public eye of PNG. He ran for office once or twice after things had died down but didn’t win. Now he feels emboldened by the passing of time and fading of memories to be more outspoken. He now stands on the platform and puts down those who question his actions for his country.

The fact is that Jerry Singirok served our country well in some ways. In other respects, he was every bit the same kind of thief and betrayer of the public interest that we complain about in so many of our present MPs.

What the evidence strongly suggests is that Jerry Singirok was a kickback artist, every bit as involved and cunning as Michael Somare has been. Instead of a Singapore bank account hid from the public eye, Singirok used a secret London bank account. So on and so forth.

Had Jerry Singirok ever had the balls to confess to his wrongdoing, explain what it was that made him move into the shady side of life and accept kickbacks (just like Michael Somare, through his Singapore account!) and strongly advised others in PNG not to make the mistakes he did, all would be forgiven.

Certainly we would not be bringing up the sorry side of Jerry Singirok today. Instead, he has continued to cover up his sin. In a 2013 radio interview with Radio Australia, Jerry Singirok paints himself as the wise elder who discusses failures that led to the Sandline fiasco. Not surprisingly, the Franklin Arms kickback isn’t given its due (http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/general-jerry-singirok-looks-back-on-the-sandline-affair/1224570?autoplay=1224616)

Singirok persists in acting Holier Than Thou, as if he is a role model to be followed. Most certainly he is not. He won’t even admit to his crimes in an honest way.

We wonder if Jerry Singirok is preparing to run for the 2017 elections? No better way than to cover up the past and pretend to be a hero without blemishes.

PNG deserves better. Surely out of 10 million citizens, we can find at least 114 whose personal conduct is beyond reproach?

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Click this link to read an article that gives all the details of the sandline episode:
http://www.bougainville-copper.eu/background-2.html
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Below is an article that describes more fully the Franklin Arms kickback payments to Jerry Singirok (http://www.pireport.org/articles/1997/07/15/pngs-singirok-accused-receiving-british-funds):

PNG'S SINGIROK ACCUSED OF RECEIVING BRITISH FUNDS
Submitted by admin on Tue, 07/15/1997 - 00:00

CANBERRA (July 14, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Former Papua New Guinea Defense Force commander Jerry Singirok, who blocked the PNG Sandline mercenary contract to fight Bougainville rebels, has been receiving funds from a rival British arms dealer, J & S Franklin, for more than a year, according to a report in the Weekend Australian.

The report from the newspaper's South Pacific correspondent, Mary-Louise O'Callaghan, said the money had been paid into a secret London bank account.

Singirok is said to have admitted the account existed, after the Weekend Australian obtained copies of bank statements showing a total of about US$52,000 had been deposited into the account since April of last year. The statements showed the account had been used in conjunction with a Visa card for cash advances, payment of hotel bills, airline tickets, and a Singapore tailor.

Sacked in March as commander of the PNG Defense Force, after leading a revolt against the use of Sandline mercenaries, the former commander has now lost his commission and been dismissed from the army. He has denied to the newspaper any impropriety, claiming the payments were the result of his personal friendship with Sidney Franklin, founder of the arms firm.

"As commander of the PNGDF, I have not ordered any equipment from J & S Franklin. The relationship is a personal relationship of friendship with Sidney Franklin, who has sold equipment to PNG for the past 10 years," Singirok said.

The Weekend Australian says Singirok's admission appears to contradict evidence given under oath to the Sandline Commission of Inquiry in April, during which he denied that he had been offered any "benefit" by Franklin.

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