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PNG’s democracy gazes creepy: Laws are bend, broken and institutions are scapegoated with adverse force.

by PETER S. KINJAP

Since independence from 1975, Papua New Guinea has enjoyed a vibrant democracy and the rule of law was at its helm with due respect and law breakers were dealt with accordingly. Six years ago things begin to change, taking a toll to all new level with corruption wide spreading in every government offices. When the country was about to embrace the benefits of the largest LNG project in the Pacific, a forcefully taken government was formed with Peter O’Neill at the rudder. Literally, Peter O’Neill was forced into the office of the Prime Minister – an issue which the courts find no jurisdiction to intervene. It was a number game and so be it – O’Neill with the numbers took by storm.

This ‘invasion’ mounted a psychological effect in the minds of Peter O’Neill which was witnessed through his unpreceded and unbecoming behavior of a person to occupy the higher in the country with integrity, moral ethics and sensitivity to the rule of law. The country was shocked with drastic moves, breaking rules which were never touched before and sensing no decency to the high office accords.

In many instances, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has perfectly demonstrated that he cannot succumb himself to the rule of law.

Ombudsman Commission and Questionable Loan deals
In Waigani Courtroom on the 29th March, a Supreme Court full bench comprising of Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Justice Panuel Mogish, Justice Stephen Kassman, Justice Terence Higgins and Cannings made a ruling that the Ombudsman Commission has the power to investigate the Office of the Prime Minister on allegations of indecorous of K3-billion loan obtained from the Union Bank of Switzerland in 2014 to purchase the ten percent Oil Search Limited shares.

It is evident here that O’Neill has no guts to the State institutions such as the OC when he bluntly challenges it saying OC is adversely ‘derogatory’ of him. The Commission was established by an Act of Parliament and is a statutory body instituted to do “check and balance” for leaders including the Prime Minister’s Office.

This is somewhat an ‘incriminating’ behavior of not succumbing to the rule of law and respecting the State institutions.  

It is quite said for the Prime Minster to challenge the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman Commission or Leader’s Watchdog. In a way, it depletes the purpose of establishing the Commission.

K3-million was not the only offshore loan that needed scrutinizing, there were couple of others too. The K6-billion from Exim Bank of China, K83-million Ialibu-Pangia Highway loan, the K223-million World Bank loan and the K3.5-billion Okuk highway rehabilitation. The basis of allegations was that most loans were obtained without vetting through proper procedural manners.

Queens Council and the attempt to quash probe against Prime Minister
Last week’s news about the Queens Council Mal Varitimos representing the Prime Minister with his submission to quash the Warrant of Arrest on the Paraka Saga is a case in point to dent the previous court decision for the warrant of arrest. Whatever the decision the court to put forward on the 28th April is something that is entirely with the courts but what obvious is the question why the dates brought closer to election eve.

Tactically, this submission was delayed so that Peter O’Neill would vacate the office duration the election hour to escape ‘official corruption’ charges which was the basis the Warrant of Arrest when first issued.  

Seeking Queen’s Council is the last option left for him and this is done so to show that a single individual is extremely manipulating people in the system to the greater advantage of himself.    

Corrective Measures 
Since the established Laws and institutions are manipulated, stricter laws needed to be enacted to patch the loopholes. The 2012 Alotau Accord talks about establishing an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) but the last five years was a waste.

  The new government after the election needed to look into it. Amongst the coalition partners in the opposition, PANGU’s Good Governance Policy is good-looking. PANGU have also identified the appointment committee members in this neutral body being constitutional office holders such as the Chief Justice, Police Commissioner and Chief Ombudsman Commissioner to appoint the office barriers of the ICAC.

PANGU party leader Hon. Sam Basil’s declaration not to align with any of PNC MPs and its coalition parties that run down the economy of the country when forming the next government is a blond stand. This even look better when it comes to fighting corruption.  

To curb corruption that is so deeply rooted in the system, PANGU’s Good Governance Policy stand a chance to correct many loopholes.