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Open Letter to Sir Michael Somare

Open Letter to Sir Michael Somare   

by JAMES PARAKISAN

    Grand Chief, before you bow out of the picture, we need you.  We realize you are 80 years old and you will be retiring from PNG politics in June 2017.  At the same time your influence, stature and leadership is essential during this time of unparalleled corruption.  

    The current administration is knee-deep in pekpek of its own making.  They’ve done a masterful job of sidelining and silencing Sam Koim, leader of the Task Force Sweep.  Koim was hand-picked by the O’Neill government to spearhead the drive against the corruption pervasive in all levels of government.  Then, ironically, when Koim starts making some headway in addressing government fraud, O’Neill neutralizes him.  

    Sir Michael, please address two or three of the major corruption issues of the last several years.  Shout out from the rooftops about the abuse of power of the current administration.  It’s been reported once before, but the people of PNG need to hear it again.   

    You’re familiar with both of the following stories.  These are stories that need to again be brought to the light of day because the major PNG newspapers ignore it and the people forget.   

    Upon discovering illegal payments made to Paul Paraka’s personal bank account in Australia, the Aussie government froze Paraka’s account.  Mr Paraka then squawked loudly, and claimed that he had in his possession a letter from Prime Minister O’Neill giving the green light for the millions of dollars in payments to himself and his wives living in Australia for legal services (for illegal purposes) rendered.  

    Prime Minister O’Neill through his lawyers replied,   “The letter Mr Paraka claims is genuine is a forgery,” even though O’Neill knew that was not the case.  When legal experts examined the letter they found it to be genuine.   

    Mr O’Neill then knew he was in hot water.  The PNG authorities came up with an arrest warrant.  The Prime Minister responded by surrounding himself with six or seven Land Cruisers with armed guards wherever he travelled to prevent an arrest.  Plus he terminated the police official attempting to arrest him.  The extent of abuse of power by O’Neill has not been seen in PNG since independence.  It is very clear that he thinks he is above the law.  He is behaving like a dictator, not a Prime Minister.      

    Grand Chief, tell the Papua New Guinean people what happened!  Prime Minister O’Neill is trying to sweep it under the rug!  So far he’s been successful.  Challenge the Prime Minister to submit to the legal process.  You have challenged him in that regard before.  You need to do it again!    

    The people of Papua New Guinea and most of the MPs are in the dark concerning the K3B UBS loan.  Because of incompetence in investing as well as corruption the loan ended up costing the nation between K3.6B and K4.0B.  The exact figure is unknown.  The annual budget of PNG is K15-18B.  The Prime Minister and his Treasury Minister have provided zero accounting for the K3 billion loan.  Every Member of Parliament should be demanding full accounting.  As you know the administration hides all that money in bank accounts in Singapore and other banks outside of PNG.       
        Sir Michael, you need to take the lead.  Bring both these issues to the light of day.  If you care about the nation, if as the father of the nation you love the nation like a father loves his son, then you will speak out about the corruption of the Prime Minister which runs in hundreds of millions, maybe even billions of kina.     

    Go down fighting!  Think about the people of Papua New Guinea.   Most people in PNG are struggling to eke out an existence.  Currently in PNG we have a 70% unemployment rate and life expectancy of 58.  If corruption had been largely eliminated, we would have 70% employment and life expectancy of 70 years of age.  

    You are the father of the nation!  Peter O’Neill is a thoroughly corrupt caretaker leader who singular objective is to enrich himself.  In The National of Dec 14, 2015, you stated that “leaders must maintain the integrity of the office they hold.”  Absolutely correct.  

    You are aware of the financial situation in PNG in the past two years..  In 2015 PNG was the envy of other Pacific region countries and many countries around the world with 11% GDP growth.  It was the first full year for income from the PNG LNG project, the biggest project ever undertaken in the history of the nation.  Dame Carol Kidu stated: “The PNG LNG project will make or break the country.”

    Then in 2016 everything fell apart because of a so-called “cash flow problem”.  High Commissioners and their staffs didn’t get paid.  State owned enterprises and UPNG failed to receive their promised allotments. Many government departments and provincial administrations were short-changed.  The primary reason for the shortage was that the Prime Minister used his dirty hands to grab hold of K550M of the K3B UBS loan and then he made poor investment choices with the bulk of the money.   

    Grand Chief, we are all aware that your hands are not clean in financial dealings you have made while you were Prime Minister.  We learned in September 2016 via the Post Courier that you and your son Arthur were paid bribes in excess of K1 million and you used those funds to buy houses in Sydney.  Those bribes were paid to facilitate the development of community colleges in PNG.  Today PNG has nothing to show for it.  Thankfully the Singaporean authorities were willing to investigate the matter and bring it to the light of day.   

    Thank you for apologizing to the people of PNG for your improprieties.  Mr Somare, you need re-pay the money to the PNG government to make things right.  

    At the same time, we still need you, because you are one of the very few who understand the incredible corruption problem of our current government.  Far too many MPs have their heads in the sand and are unwilling delve into the matter.  Or they are in Mr. O’Neill’s pocket and fearful of saying anything negative about him.   

    You are one of the few who understand that not K10M or K100M, but a minimum of K550M is missing and unaccounted for in the UBS loan alone.  You are also aware of the lack of transparency of these mega-financial arrangements.  You know that the UBS loan and the PNG LNG transactions should not have been hidden (and continue to be hidden) in Singapore banks, but should rather have been deposited in the Bank of South Pacific or some other PNG bank, so that improper transactions can be easily investigated.  

    Corruption is so pervasive in our country that these matters have to be addressed.  The economy is limping along when it should be robust.  You need to convince a majority of MPs to require that Prime Minister O’Neill give full accounting on UBS loan and that PNG LNG arrangements need to be altered so that the funds from Japan are funneled through a PNG bank.  

    The very incompetent courts in PNG have given Prime Minister O’Neill a free pass on his theft of K550M on the UBS scandal.  They have swept the matter under the rug, leaving the country frustrated with the perverted sense of justice.   
   
    Grand Chief, if you have a love for the people of PNG, if you care about the 70% of the population who are barely eking out an existence, then please use the last 5 months you are in government to demand full and transparent accounting on the UBS and the Paraka issues.   Don’t slip into retirement under the shadow of your own improprieties.  Another 5 years of Peter O’Neill would be a disaster for the nation.