Doing the Right Thing With Respect to the UBS Loan Prosecution Against Peter O’Neill
By JASON K WAUGLE
Pondros Kaluwin is fairly well respected as a Public Prosecutor. Most believe that he has fought for justice during his career. Of course, the same is said about many people until they are given the test of their lives. The moment they face political pressure or threats, many good people will find that their strong will was never that strong. These people might be ethical and do the right thing under normal circumstances, but when evil raises its head high and the devil blows strong winds, their moral willpower is not strong enough to stand up and continue to do the right thing. At worse, they become a sell out. More often, they try to escape their responsibilities to do the right thing.
Doing the right thing is what it’s all about in the end. It separates the real heroes from the fake heroes. We will place great respect on the shoulders of whoever does the right thing, even under pressure, because that is the test of how strong their ethics and moral conscience was all along. They performed without fear or favour.
Whether Pondros Kaluwin merits being declared a hero or a fake in the UBS loan scandal prosecution against Peter O’Neill is open to question. Whether the ombudsman Rigo Lua is a person of high, undefeatable character is equally questionable. Both find themselves in hot water because of what happened on Thursday.
When Kaluwin threw the hot potato of Peter O’Neill and UBS loan back into the court of the ombudsman, it appeared that he was trying to escape his responsibility to do the right thing. There are too many strange things about this case that makes one suspicious of Kaluwin’s core integrity. One can legitimately ask why it took so long for him to reject the ombudsman’s submission. His explanation was short and unconvincing. Did he have better things to do during all this time or was he instead getting stressed out because he was being put under pressure, not by the PM (of course) but by one of the PM’s designated contacts (of course!) to suss out Kaluwin and try to get him to favour Peter O’Steal in come way. If Kaluwin appeared inflexible on the issue of bribery (most certainly the case), then O’Neill’s designated briefcase carrier would have sounded him out to favour the Prime Minister in some other way, convincing Kaluwin that he was doing nothing wrong by helping out.
Doing the wrong thing in the context of Peter O’Steal doesn’t necessarily require that one becomes corrupt. We’ve all seen that a key step in O’Steal’s game plan of escaping justice is to do nothing more than stuff up the wheels of justice so that they barely move, things go on forever, and the public loses interest in the case, like what happened during the NPF saga. O’Steal learnt the trick then and continues to repeat it. He has an army of lawyers (probably paid for out of taxpayer’s pockets) fighting prosecutors on all legal fronts. If he loses a battle, he starts another one to increase the possibility that he won’t lose the war. Whereas the prosecutors aren’t fighting O’Steal to protect their wealth and immense future income potential, Peter O’Steal is. Thus, his motivation to defeat his opponents is likely much higher than the motivation of his opponents to bring O’Steal down. Who will give up first? It won’t be O’Steal!
Last Thursday, Kaluwin did what judges throughout our country do all the time. The judge pronounces a defendant “innocent”, knowing very well that the evidence points to guilty. If anyone complains that the judge has given the wrong decision, the judge makes sure everyone knows that the judge’s weird verdict can be appealed to a higher court. Those rare people who have ever found themselves in a PNG court facing off against the rich and powerful know this game, as it is played often. But they never speak much about it for fear of the rich or powerful sending someone after them one dark and rainy night.
Few honest citizens have the money to go through the whole court process again by appealing the first verdict, because they can’t honestly earn money as fast as their opponent can steal it. Also there is no guarantee that judges in the higher court they appeal to will be any more honest. Few honest prosecutors make the effort to appeal a decision against a political figure, or even the friend of a political figure, because they know they could end up losing their job by being too persistent. So they tell themselves, “I did my job” and then put the case behind them. The guilty goes free and the judge that made their freedom possible shrugs their shoulders and says, “well, I told them they should appeal the case if they didn’t like my decision.”
In those exceptionally rare instances where the case is appealed to the higher court, and the higher court provides justice by pronouncing the accused guilty, all the original judge has to admit to is “making a mistake” in interpreting the law. They get away looking clean even though they clearly were helping the corrupt, either willingly (in return for bribes) or unwillingly (to escape threats or pressure). Maybe these same judges play honestly in court cases that don’t involve the rich or powerful. Maybe they’ve even refused bribes offered by small timers. It doesn’t matter. When the going got tough, they ran away from justice instead of standing in its defence. They helped the evil side by bending under pressure and taking the easy way out. They deserve no respect and no sympathy, because they were more than willing to take the handsome salary a judge makes with the implied agreement that in return for that salary, they would serve the public interest and do the right thing.
Back to Kaluwin, who substitutes the words “appeal my decision to a higher court” with “I’m throwing the responsibility back to the ombudsman so I don’t have to deal with it”. Honest as Kaluwin may have shown himself to be in his career, the question is whether he was able to stand up under immense pressure.
We shouldn’t forget Rigo Lua, the ombudsman, in this example. Was he also shirking responsibility by throwing the hot potato into the Public Prosecutor’s court in the first place? Might it be Rigo Lua instead of Pondros Kaluwin who is running away from their responsibility to do the right thing by shifting everything over to someone else to deal with? Maybe it is true that the ombudsman has done a piss poor job of preparing the prosecution paper for the Peter O’Neill UBS case rather than put together a strong argument that was sure to nail O’Steal. Then he shoved the pathetic attempt under the door of Kaluwin hoping that Kaluwin would take all the pressure and blame from O’Neill and his ratbag briefcase carriers, recommend that a Leadership Tribunal be established, all the while knowing that the prosecution’s case wouldn’t hold water, meaning that O’Steal would go free and the ombudsman could rest easy again.
In that scenario, the finger points clearly only to Rigo Lua as the one who ran away from doing the right thing, not to Pandros Kaluwin.
Whether only Lua, only Kaluwin, or both of them ran away from their duties in the UBS prosecution case is something we cannot make a conclusion on until more information on the process comes out.
The one thing we know with certainty is that at least one of these two has dropped the bag on this one, big time, and betrayed the people of PNG as a result.