Confusion over provincial position in PNG's Highlands

5:50 pm on 24 April 2018

There is confusion over who holds the provincial administrator position in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands.

The former senior police officer and anti-fraud squad member Thomas Eluh was appointed caretaker administrator by the National Executive Council (NEC) in 2017.

Thomas Eluh

Thomas Eluh Photo: RNZI

However, a leaked letter from the Department of Personnel Management dated April 12 congratulated a Joseph Catejan on his appointment as the province's new acting administrator.

Provincial governor William Powi seemed to confirm the leak last week when he told EMTV the new appointment was approved by public service minister Elias Kapavore.

The governor asked the secretary of finance and banks to allow Mr Cajetan access provincial funds and called on Mr Eluh to adhere to the decision.

Days earlier, Mr Eluh had told LoopPNG the timing of the appointment was wrong and would increase tensions in the province known for its tribal fighting, and which was suffering from the recent earthquakes.

At a press conference in Port Moresby, Mr Eluh reportedly warned the public service minister he would hold him responsible if anyone was killed.

The appointment of Mr Cajetan was gazetted by the Ministerial Appointments Committee, LoopPNG said.

Meanwhile, community leaders in Southern Highlands had called on the government to confirm Mr Eluh in the post, according to the Post Courier

It quoted Johnson Pisa, a community leader and church representative, backing Mr Eluh in the interests of "stability, accountability and normalcy".

A leaked letter from the Department of Personal Management shows that Mr Joseph Catejan was appointed.

A leaked letter from the Department of Personal Management shows that Mr Joseph Catejan was appointed. Photo: Supplied/ Melvin Levongo

A tug of war over money existed in the province by people seeking to help themselves and not the people, Mr Eluh told EMTV.

"My work in cleaning up the province is proving to be a threat to those individuals who want to get their hands on the money," Mr Eluh said.

Today, the Post Courier reported Mr Eluh saying the move to replace him was about access to money.

"They play around with people's money and sign cheques in the hotel rooms or elsewhere in Port Moresby," he said.

"I told them that I will not sign people's money elsewhere. The chair that they, the government and the people gave me, was the only place where I can sign.

"I am not hungry for jobs because I am a true policeman and a true policeman to the bone. I was able to weed out these corrupt practices and they now are playing politics to remove me. I am not here for politics but to serve the people of Southern Highlands Province and restore peace and order in the province."