29 Jul 2013

Papua New Guinea has a new Chief Ombudsman

6:43 pm on 29 July 2013

After a long vacancy in the position, Papua New Guinea has a new Chief Ombudsman.

Rigo Lua has been sworn in as the permanent head of the Ombudsman Commission - a position left vacant when his predecessor, Chronox Manek, died in October.

The Chair of Transparency International Papua New Guinea, Lawrence Stephens says the corruption watchdog is pleased the position has finally been filled after the ten-month wait and he hopes the new Chief Ombudsman will consider the good examples set by some of his predecessors and give thought to what is needed now. He spoke to Beverley Tse.

LAWRENCE STEPHENS: I'm very happy that it's finally happened, because there had been a long delay since the death of the previous Chief Ombudsman. We were becoming concerned at the delay, and were pleased when there was finally an appointment made.

BEVERLEY TSE: What do you know of this new Chief Ombudsman?

LS: I understand that he comes from a background in the public service and has been working most recently, we understand, in the public service commission. We're not aware of wider experience than that, although we take it he must have. He's not someone well-known in the general community, but clearly must be well-known in the public service.

BT: Now, just going back to the fact that it's taken a while for a new Chief Ombudsman to be sworn in, is this a reflection of the government perhaps not being serious enough about this role of the Chief Ombudsman?

LS: One of the problems we have in Papua New Guinea with many of the things that people take for granted - 'That should have happened' or 'This should have happened' - is that we don't get around to it. It's difficult to judge why there was such a long delay in this appointment. It could be seen as deliberate, but probably more realistic to see it as just one of those examples of inefficiency leading to something not taking place.

BT: Do you think the fact that there's been a long vacancy for this position, has that been detrimental in any way?

LS: It is pretty difficult to run an ombudsman commission of three people with only two in office, so I imagine that there have been many difficulties for the people in the office as a result of the absence of one person or one occupant of these positions.

BT: And it seems this position needs someone who's going to be tough and strong in their stance, to tackle the issues of the country. So what sort of characteristics or what do you think this new Chief Ombudsman needs to do in order to do his job well?

LS: Probably examine the tradition that's been there before him. We've had some marvellous people in that role. I imagine that Mr Lua could look back at some of the records from those times and give some thought to what we really need now.