Taskforce Sweep closure could be catastrophic: Kua
PNG's former Attorney General says between 50 to 100 corruption-related cases are at risk of collapsing if Task Force Sweep closes.
Papua New Guinea's former Attorney General says between 50 to 100 corruption-related cases are at risk of collapsing if the anti-corruption unit, Task Force Sweep closes.
The unit has operated without funding since August, when the government refused to release the money allocated to it in the budget, following an unsuccessful attempt to have Taskforce Sweep disbanded.
The court action followed an arrest warrant being issued against the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, after an investigation by the unit implicated him in illegal payments to a law firm.
But Kerenga Kua, who set up the unit and was sacked as Attorney General following the arrest warrant, says the unit has been starved of funding to the point of collapse -- and that could bring its work down with it.
KERENGA KUA: They were allocated a budget of 8 million kina in the 2014 budget, they've not been allowed to access any of those funds all the way up until now so they've been living off the residual funding they had allocated to them from 2013 and as I understand it, they have not got a single cent out of the 2014 budget and right now I think they should be closing down because they've run out of money completely. They've brought so many cases, arrests they've made that are awaiting prosecution, they need to go out and find lawyers to interview witnesses and compile lawyers and policemen to go out throughout the country, compile the evidence and then bring the witnesses in for prosecution etc. All those corruption-related charges are now going to be on the verge of collapse. I think between 50 and 100 arrests that have already been made are now on the verge of being lost and all those corruption-related charges going unpunished, it's a major issue in the country right now.
JAMIE TAHANA: So you're suggesting 50 to 100 cases that Taskforce Sweep has brought since its inception not too long ago are at risk of collapsing?
KK: They're at various stages of prosecution. There are also a number of imminent arrests of senior politicians that are also being held off. So there's a number of very prominent arrests that have also been placed on hold simply because funding has not been released and, in my view, this is not coincidental. It is deliberate misuse of power by those at the top in order to destroy the prosecution work that's been done by the police. But if they think that by freezing them out of funding and that it will enable them to escape, they might as well go and take up citizenship in another country because for as long as they remain here the institutions will get them one day, no matter how long it takes we will get there.
JT: Sam Koim, the chair of Taskforce Sweep, has taken this to court, there's challenges in place, and he's also worked unpaid since August. What do you think of his character to power on through this?
KK: You know, he's a champion. Papua New Guinea really needs more of these kinds of people. This is the kind of man the Prime Minister ought to be giving medals to, rather than to his fellow business men, this is the kind of man he ought to be giving the highest honours to. You know, I really take my hat off to Sam, he's one man, but history has shown that it usually takes one man to redefine the history of a nation, so maybe in the case of Papua New Guinea, that man at the moment is Sam Koim.
JT: With Taskforce Sweep looking like it is on the verge of closure, what anti-corruption measures will be left in Papua New Guinea?
KK: Well the establishment of the Sweep team is supposed to be forerunner to the anti-corruption commission which we were establishing. There was a constitutional law that was developed to create an independent commission against corruption. That draft organic law was ready during my term as Attorney General, it was ready to be tabled and up until now the Prime Minister has not tabled it in Parliament. In the August sitting of parliament I questioned him on the floor on Parliament when he was going to table that or is it part of his overall strategy to suppress this anti-corruption work? And he undertook on the floor of Parliament that he would table it in November. November's come and gone.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: