17 Jan 2007

Moti issue alive and kicking for PNG

6:40 pm on 17 January 2007

The chair of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force inquiry into the Julian Moti saga, Justice Gibbs Salika, says it is dangerous for the Prime Minister to describe it as "a dead issue''.

Attempts to get Sir Michael Somare to give evidence at the Defence Force inquiry into Moti's escape from PNG aboard a military plane last October have been declined by the Prime Minister.

Our correspondent Alex Rheeney says the Prime Minister has described the continued media coverage of the issue as shameful, but believes it's an issue won't go away.

"He actually said that it was a dead issue but Justice Gibbs Salika said that it may be a dead issue to the Prime Minister but it's not a dead issue to PNG because there were breaches of PNG law and the Moti flight on October 10 last year actually infringed on matters of national security, and it was important for the inquiry to actually get down to who actuially gave the approval for Moti to be flown to the Solomon Islands ."

The inquiry has been told by Joseph Assaigo, the director general of the National Security Advisory at the time of the escape, that he faced "extreme political pressure" to fly the fugitive into Solomon Islands.

He has also told the that he let a ninth passenger, his teenage nephew, go along for the ride on the military plane, despite earlier statements by the pilot that only eight took the Moti flight.

Mr Assaigo says that he ordered senior military to organise the flight after being instructed himself to arrange the flight by the government's chief of staff Leonard Louma.

Alex Rheeney says that Mr Louma had denied this to the inquiry last week.

They'll be getting Mr Louma to come back to the inquiry to give evidence and be questioned on what Mr Assaigo said yesterday. So it's now up to Mr Louma to tell Papua New Guinea who actually gave him the directives to call Mr Assaigo for Mr Moti to be flown out.