7 Sep 2012

PNG's deputy PM - Rabaul Queen owner could face criminal charges

4:37 am on 7 September 2012

Papua New Guinea's Deputy Prime Minister, Leo Dion, says the owner of the Rabaul Queen, Peter Sharp, could be charged with criminal negligence for the deaths caused by the sinking of the inter island ferry last February.

The Commission of Inquiry into the disaster says Captain Sharp demonstrated he had little or no respect for people, including those in authority.

It says this gross disrespect was reflected in the appalling and inhumane conditions in which he was prepared to allow people to travel on the Rabaul Queen.

The report estimates that as many as 161 people died in the tragedy.

Mr Dion, who tabled the Commission's report into the sinking off Morobe, says while it highlights the possibility of criminal action, that decision is up to the police.

The National newspaper reports Mr Dion saying the Criminal Code provides that a person who kills another may be guilty of manslaughter by criminal negligence, in this case overloading the ship and sailing in poor weather.

The Deputy Prime Minister says the Government owes it to the victims to ensure sea transport is reliable.