Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s decision to have his two senior Ministers sidelined and a dozen heads of government organisations suspended in connection with the controversial Manumanu land deal is welcomed. In announcing his government’s decision at a media conference Monday, Mr O’Neill said “We want to clearly demonstrate to our country and to our people that our Government is committed to the principles and practises of good governance.”

And I thought –really? Is this the joke of the century? Since when did this corrupt government commit to observing the principles of good governance? Is it not a case of convenience and saving face exercise? My suspicion is like a situation of a bank robbery going wrong where the criminals shoot at each other after robbing the bank. Is O’Neill not more concerned about Duma and United Resource Party being resourced for the elections, than a genuine concern to protect the interest of the public? I am led to lean to the former.

There is a big difference between running a country on principles of good governance, and reacting to put out fires (scandals) like this due to lack of good governance. PM O’Neill’s government is embroiled in the latter. The O’Neill government had been riddled with corruption since the day they got into power and the scale of it had increased then. The Captain (PM) himself led the way and all the soldiers followed him.

Don’t you be under an illusion and sing praises to O’Neill for his recent decision? This is a smokescreen!

On 22nd May 2013, when allegations of massive fraudulent payments to Paul Paraka Lawyers were raised on the floor of Parliament, PM O’Neill said he would sack everybody to get to the bottom of the rot. ABC online news accounted his words in these terms “"I will go down as far as sacking the cleaner if I have to," he said. “If we have to shut down the finance department for one month or two months we will to get to the bottom of this."” See http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-05-22/png-pm-threatens-to-shut-down-finance-department/4706812

Well, a number of those implicated in the Paraka scandal were made to pay the price in keeping with his announcement, whilst the obvious ones he spared were himself and his Finance Minister James Marape. It occurred later that it was PM O’Neill and James Marape who authorised the fraudulent payments of K71.8 million to Paul Paraka Lawyers. He did not sack himself (step down) or James Marape.  Instead, they’ve mounted multiple attacks on the institutions such as Taskforce Sweep that investigated. Lest you forget –it was O’Neill who directed an investigation into Paul Paraka Lawyers payments.

In the Manumanu land deal, Minister Duma claimed in Parliament that the deal was approved by the National Executive Council dating back to 2012 of which PM O’Neill was the Chairman. Minister Duma claimed that there is paper trail to establish the legality of this controversial land deal. See http://www.looppng.com/png-news/land-was-acquired-legally-duma-51416
We have sufficient experiences to know now what the PM would do if the paper trail leads to PM himself after the Commission of Inquiry completes its inquiry. We also know his tendency to then deflect and find a reason to discredit the very organisations undertaking the inquiry at his authorisation.

That leads to one irony I’ve discovered in the PM’s media statement where he referred the same Manumanu land allegations to the Ombudsman Commission and the National Fraud Squad to be investigated apart from the COI. One wonders whether this is for real or another smokescreen. PM O’Neill himself was the subject of various criminal and leadership investigations conducted by these very institutions. The Police Fraud Squad relating to the Paul Paraka Lawyers allegations where PM O’Neill still has an arrest warrant out for his arrest, and the Ombudsman Commission in relation to the controversial K3billion UBS loan. In his resistance to accountability, PM O’Neill had virtually discredited and destroyed these institutions. He mounted a vicious fight against these institutions. He openly claimed that these institutions were corrupted.  It’s interesting he is now seeking recourse through these institutions and one wonders whether he is really genuine. Does O’Neill still have faith in these institutions? I doubt he does.

Who is this “very experienced and credible retired judge” who will head the COI? The obvious names for his pick are “Whitewashed Warwick Andrews” who does a tremendous job to pursue partisan causes of the one who pays him, or the ambitious glory-seeker Graham Ellis who is a close associate of Isaac Lupari and Governor Ipatas. Both are retired judges who have got no jobs in Australia and would make themselves available to do anything for a dime. At the end of the day, it would be another expensive toothless CoI to witch-hunt political foes. There were many expensive COIs conducted previously and the reports have collected dust. For instance the Finance COI where Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari is implicated and referred to the Police and Ombudsman Commission for prosecution. O’Neill has conveniently failed to implement this COI. What about the SABL CoI? And the list goes on. What the people need is not another expensive COI at this time when the country is facing deepening financial crises.  Why not get Taskforce Sweep or Fraud Squad back on track to immediately pursue the allegations? Or Are you too scared of being caught in your own net again?

At the end of the day, the people of Papua New Guinea want the truth and those who squander the common resources of the people are brought to justice. But justice in the hands of the O’Neill Government had always been twisted and faked.  Will we see something different in this case? I doubt so.

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