PATRICK PRUAITCH THE SMUG AND POLITICAL WHORE

by JOSEPH GAWI

PATRICK PRUAITCH STANDS OUT AMONGST THE WHOLE GANG OF WHITE COLLAR CRIMINALS IN PARLIAMENT: He honestly believes that no matter how corrupt he is, he will never be prosecuted. This belief is made ever more strong by the fact that he has been caught or nearly caught many times. But nothing ever results in a conviction and Patrick Pruaitch remains free to smirk at the world knowing he has his protectors. Is it true that he actually believes it is God's will that he remain free to perpetuate his life of bribery and kickbacks? Or is it actually the devil at work here?

More than any other PNG politician today, Patrick Pruaitch is the symbol of a system of justice breaking down nearly in its entirety whenever it comes to prosecuting VIPs or virtually any white collar criminals. Yes, Paul Tientsen got prosecuted and sent to jail but that's because he wouldn't do things the way the loose knit mafia of politicians who run our country expected him to do. He wouldn't trade favours, he was too much his own man. So the mafia sacrificed him.

Mr Pruaitch enjoys a very different position in the mafia of Waigani. He has moved up slowly, starting from when he was Michael Somare's son in law (no longer) and was elected to Parliament in 2002 as an Independent. He quickly joined the Somare camp and was given the cherished appointment of Minister of Forests. Supposedly his main role was to keep Rimbunan Hijau (RH) happy. RH has controlled more than half of all of PNG's forest concessions for over 25 years. Pruaitch quickly learnt what all forestry ministers, from Michael Ogio (the now corrupt Governor General) and Beldon Namah (who followed his Forestry corruption by selling out his Bewani people's timber resources for zero kina to Asians under an SABL) have learnt: Being Forestry Minister is the key to getting all kinds of goodies from Rimbunan Hijau and other foreign loggers operating in PNG. Cash is paid under the table for granting logging concessions or looking the other way when logging is being carried out illegally. The poor timber resource owners have no power at all against the coalition of the Forests Minister and the Foreign Logger.

Pruaitch's newfound, giant leap of wealth following his appointment as Forest Minister overwhelmed his childlike personality and he quickly became a drunkard and party animal every bit as comical as David Arore has displayed when he was Minister of Higher Education. Pruaitch was once found passed out drunk in his vehicle parked haphazardly and very conspicuously on Waigani Drive. His behaviour eventually embarrassed the Grand Thief Michael Somare so much that Somare went into a tirade, screaming at Pruaitch to start acting his age and not like an imbecile.

Pruaitch eventually did settle down, but continued to refine his skills at making extra side money. In recent years he has involved himself in real estate kickbacks around Port Moresby. He has also gotten kickbacks for overruling illegal SABLS (Special Agricultural Business Leases) way outside of his electorate, and since he has been Treasury Minister.

One of the most hilarious corruption exposes of Patrick Pruaitch came during the SBS Australian Television sting operation in PNG, trapping lawyers Harvey Maladina (brother of notoriously corrupt Jimmy) and Greg Sheppard ("lawyer for intending corrupt walk-in visitors") in a secret video-tape. The visitor pretended that he was contemplating a corruption scam involving a Minister and wanted to know the best way to pay the bribes. The imposter hesitated a bit, as if he were reluctant to give the name of the Minister involved and said "May I sort of take a risk and share a name?"

The trick worked like a charm! Sheppard jumped in helpfully and said: "What the name of the Minister? Is it Pruaitch?"

That is the ultimate indicator of what kind of reputation Patrick Pruaitch has in the higher social circles of Port Moresby. He is considered unrepentedly and openly corrupt, always looking for a bribe, and completely fearless that he will ever get caught, much less prosecuted.

Actually Patrick Pruaitch has been caught and on more than one occasion. Once again, lawyer Greg Sheppard comes to the rescue and tells the unknown visitor everything on the secret camera: "He's already being scrutinised by the Ombudsman. Because he did some crazy thing like he let a Malaysian timber guy buy him a house. So there was a house in his name and it was paid for by the Malaysian timber guy who wound up with a nice...... They purchased the house here in Port Moresby paid for in Patrick's name by a bank cheque from the Malaysian, you know. This was six to eight years ago [when Pruaitch was Forestry Minister]."

The cat is out of the back. The Ombudsman got the complaint. The Ombudsman got the evidence. The evidence is very clear, black and white.

Yet, Patrick Pruaitch has been able to avoid a Leadership Tribunal with Peter O'Neill style court delays all the way up to the year 2017. Pruaitch is smug and convinced that he will never be prosecuted much less be found guilty and even if he is found guilty, the most he can be punished under a Leadership Tribunal (which is not a criminal court case!) is to lose his seat in Parliament for a few years, after which he can run again and be re-elected.

That's why Patrick Pruaitch has such a contented smirk on his face. That's why he believes that amongst all of PNG's white collar thieves, Patrick Pruaitch is the most untouchable. That's why Patrick Pruaitch sat smirking in Parliament alongside Leo Dion and Peter O'Neill during the session about the university student boycott and shootings and asked in his typical smart ass manner about the students, "Who are they? They're animals!"

The university students are animals, according to Patrick Pruaitch, because they were struggling for justice. Patrick Pruaitch, on the other hand, is not an animal because he is successfully pillaging PNG for his personal bank account, all payable these days in dribs and drabs. Patrick Pruaitch is a genius. He has never paid for his crimes yet, and is convinced that he never will. Not as long as the PNG judicial system remains completely paralysed and unable to fairly prosecute white collar crimes.

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