15 Feb 2007

PNG prime minister rejects claim he ordered Moti flight

7:47 pm on 15 February 2007

The Papua New Guinea prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, is rejecting claims from the former chief of the national security advisory council, Joseph Assaigo, that he ordered him to get fugitive Julian Moti out of the country.

Mr Assaigo has reportedly filed filed papers in court making this claim.

He says that the prime minister's chief of staff, Leonard Louma, directed him to use the police helicopter or a defence force plane to fly Mr Moti to Solomon Islands.

The newspaper, The National, reports that Mr Assaigo was assured by the chief of staff that he would have the protection of the Prime Minister.

But Sir Michael, in a statement, says Mr Asaigo should be charged with perjury for lying under oath to the defence force board of inquiry into the Moti affair.

Sir Michael says he would never have asked his chief of staff to give orders to a public servant, but would have the chief secretary do that.

He says he has dealt with the public service over several decades and know the lines of reporting.

Sir Michael also says constitutionally a prime minister does not have the power to direct the judiciary, the defence or the police force.

He says in the same way, if an operation is to be undertaken by government, it would need to be sanctioned by the national executive council and the national security council.