AN URGENT PLEA TO THE PRIME MINISTER


HON. JAMES MARAPE., MP
PRIME MINSTER OF THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Dear Prime Minister;

Sir, I make this post on this matter of national importance as it involves not only the commission of a serious crime on PNG territory but involves the issue of national security. Your statement (and that of a DCP/Ops Yamasombi) as quoted in the Post Courier on Friday on the movement of the cocaine discovered in PNG to Australia is shocking and could be the result of you being given insufficient information and facts to make a sound decision for the good of our country. I am hoping that you are truly a Papua New Guinean from Hela province in PNG.

The law

According to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, Part IV, Section 10, FORFEITURE OF DANGEROUS DRUGS ILLEGALLY IMPORTED: “Dangerous drugs imported in contravention of this Act or of a licence shall be seized by a Customs Officer and may be dealt with as the Minister directs.” The law does not state who this Minister is. Under Schedule 1 of the same Act, “cocaine” and “coca leaf” are both also defined as dangerous drugs. Hence all persons involved in PNG can be arrested and tried in court here. There is no question of jurisdiction at all – period.

Impacts

To have these drugs and the suspects moved to Australia impinges on many things including evidential procedures and law, competence of police and law enforcement agencies, investigation procedures, processes and protocols, future court cases and trials and many other very important and critical questions. I hope they have been answered satisfactorily to you and others for such a decision to be made.

Prime Minister, you said that we are not a “banana republic”. If that is true, then why are you allowing us to act like one. Having the key evidence in a multi-faceted and multi-agency investigation being removed off shore is not the act of a strong and independent nation whose law enforcement systems are intact.

Misinformation

Mr Yamasombi’s statement to the Post Courier (Friday 29 Aug front page) is without question completely misleading when he stated that “….the 28 bags of cocaine belong to Australia.” Mr Acting Deputy Commissioner has been a detective almost all his career and he knows what constitutes proof of ownership. In this case has not been settled as yet. The drugs were not found in or on someone so possession and custody is also not established. If “the bags belong to Australia”, then it is obvious that he has already established that the drugs came into PNG from Australia and the owner of the drugs in Australia.

These drugs belong to PNG, to deal with as the State (through the Minister) pleases by operation of the law. Now given that I wonder which Minister will determine the fate of these drugs? The Scientist? Ugh…bad choice.

Evidence destruction

Mr Yamasombi. You know the drugs are critical material evidence in a series of crimes committed against several laws in PNG. That makes them critical in any upcoming court case. Yamasombi and every other policeman in PNG (except perhaps Manning) knows that any magistrate will want to see the physical evidence and confirmation of content from a recognised authority before conviction. Not only have that, but the chain of evidence from point of discovery by police up to the court house and all other movements in between. Now why you are trying to remove the drugs to Australia when the cases are not over yet? Are you trying to destroy the evidence and case?

Now given that the crime scene was essentially destroyed by the police officers who arrived there under Mr Yamasombi thereby making it practically impossible for any supporting forensics evidence, it is now clear that the chain of evidence linking the suspects to the cocaine is very weak. However their confessional statements (or records of interviews, if any were done) would be a link. Without the physical evidence and a lab report confirming the substance as being cocaine, they will walk free. The same can be said for Cutmore. What evidence do we have to prove that Cutmore was the one who piloted the plane that crashed? From Yamasombi’s own words, he arrived “after” the plane crash so who told him Cutmore was the pilot? Do you have his prints on the plane? Or an eye witness who saw him walking away from the plane? If not then this case is also on shaky ground.

Extradition

Prime Minister, I am also wondering what law will be used to have them “extradited” to Australia? I’ve gone through the Criminal Code Act Chapter 262 and the sections that could have been used (Sections 12. 13 & 14) do not match this situation and do not apply. Maybe I missed one? Do we have an extradition treaty with Australia? If not, then there’s no rush is there.

Security of evidence

On the matter of “security”, Prime Minister there is no need to send these exhibits to Australia for “security” as we have many places where they can be stored securely. We have several armouries owned by the police, CS and PNGDF that can be used. Or we can have them locked up in a bank vault (BPNG has some of the best) or even in the police commissioner’s office. I find this excuse nonsensical. And I hope you do not accept or even consider it.

What the proponents of these suggestions are doing is undermining the integrity of the RPNGC as well as our other institutions who can take charge of these drugs. They are also undermining the investigations into this matter.

Issues unresolved

Finally Prime Minister, the manner in which this is being handled has all the hallmarks of a cover up and damage control operation. You have said you are a Christian and will do things right in the eyes of God. That being so, I want to ask the following questions for transparency, accountability and governance.

Why is Mr Yamasombi in charge of investigating this case? His name has been linked negatively with this from a variety of sources.

And why have your Police Minister and Police Commissioner allowed him to not only remain untouched but have placed him in charge of the investigation? This does not make sense in a normal situation and the fact that you are not doing anything about it is reflecting negatively on yourself and your government.

Has any further progress been made in PNG regarding the other parties?
How much help and information has the AFP provided on the PNG side of the drug runner’s operation?

Recommendations

I would like to respectfully remind you Sir that you have two of the best legal minds in PNG in your cabinet namely the Deputy Prime Minster Steven Davies and Minister Kerenge Kua. Have you consulted with them in this? I’ve asked a few lawyers also and they are adamant that there is no question of jurisdiction. It is in PNG’s jurisdiction.

Mr Prime Minister. I strongly recommend that you consult widely on this with professionals in this field. This includes:

a. Experienced and knowledgeable serving senior police officers.

b. Former and retired senior police officers.

c. State Prosecutor’s lawyers

d. Criminal defence lawyers

They will tell you the importance of the chain of evidence (which it appears to me you neither understand nor appreciate). I am hoping that you have not allowed yourself to be convinced to take a position without considering all advice available on this matter.

Finally Sir, I also recommend that as a legislator, it will be best if you react to this situation by amending the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952 to upgrade the penalties therein and get them on par with our neighbours. There are also other Acts that need to be upgraded too including the Criminal Code Act which is from the 1960s. That should be your Police Minister’s first concern now, instead of acting as police commissioner on Facebook.

Conclusion

To conclude Sir, I respectfully put it to you again that this actions by the Police Minister and Commissioner are more than sufficient grounds to have them suspended and removed from office to allow a full, thorough and professional investigation to take place.

Prime Minister, in case you were not told, I can tell you straight here that this is NOT a new airstrip recently built. If you have been told otherwise, it is a lie. The work done recently was not to build a new airstrip but only to clear the landing field. The actual construction of the landing strip itself was done and completed years ago. You can tell that very easily. In fact, I will say that there have been other landings on this strip.

So we are not dealing with a new group. They are well entrenched and well connected. As the head of this country, you need to react appropriately. Immediately Sir!


PAUL AMATIO

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