PNG PM confident in corruption probe outcome
PNG Prime Minister says he is confident the truth will eventually be revealed through the anti-corruption probe into alleged improper payments to a law firm.
The Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill says he is confident the truth will eventually be revealed through the anti-corruption probe into alleged improper payments to a law firm.
An independent investigation is being carried out by a Task Force Sweep team into how 28 million US dollars was directed from government coffers to Paul Paraka Lawyers.
Beverley Tse explains.
Last October the opposition leader Belden Namah filed a complaint to the police commissioner relating to the prime minister's alleged involvement in illegal funds transferred to Paul Paraka Lawyers. The complaint which implicated the prime minister Peter O'Neill, the treasurer Don Polye and finance minister James Marape led to three sets of arrest warrants being issued against the trio. The warrants were recently set aside in court because they did not comply with the proper procedure and led to the suspension of four policemen. Our correspondent, Todagia Kelola, says police admitted that procedures to obtain the warrants were not carried out properly.
TODAGIA KELOLA: They agreed with what the prime minister's lawyer have stated, that the warrants are without any basis in law and that the forms are improper in law and do not stand. And they do not dispute the arguments put forward by the prime minister's lawyer that there must be compliance of the law for the warrants to stand and be effective.
But Belden Namah sought an urgent court order to stay the suspensions, saying the district court ruled the officers are free to re-apply for the warrants under the appropriate section of the Arrest Act. He has accused the prime minister and police commissioner of misinforming the public and trying to draw attention away from Mr O'Neill's alleged involvement in the illegal payments.
BELDEN NAMAH: I'm of the firm belief that the actions of both the prime minister and the police commissioner in fact are moves to suppress any actions to eventually prosecute prime minister Peter O'Neill, treasurer, core chairman of World Bank, Don Polye, and finance minister James Marape for very serious indictable offences.
As part of a long-running rivalry between the Prime Minister and the opposition leader, are claims by Peter O'Neill that Mr Namah has been collaborating with rogue policemen to destroy his reputation.
PETER O'NEILL: He's a person who has got a reputation in the country where he has tried to overthrow a legitimate government before. So this is not unexpected. So Papua New Guineans are not silly but unfortunately it attracts the wrong attention and gives a bad image to our country's judicial system.
Belden Namah denies this.
BELDEN NAMAH: I do not conspire and I have not conspired and I will not conspire with anyone to overthrow a duly elected government. My concern here is that I'm a complainant. I laid an official complaint on the 29th of October 2013 for a very serious crime of corruption in Papua New Guinea.
Following a separate complaint into the improper payments, an independent Task Force Sweep investigation was launched. A key piece of evidence has been a letter appearing to have been signed by the prime minister approving some of the payments to Paul Paraka Lawyers. But investigators deemed last week that there is no case to pursue against the prime minister because the letter did not originate from his office. Peter O'Neill says the letter in question also does not clearly indicate that payments should be made to the law firm.
PETER O'NEILL: It is the truth and that we have all along stated that clearly that that letter did not originate out of the prime minister's office. After a thorough search by the investigating team they're unable to find the evidence of the letter being signed in and out of the prime minister's [office].
Mr O'Neill says he is confident the Task Force Sweep team will discover the truth and believes they have a fair idea where the letter originated.
PETER O'NEILL: The letter is just a smoke screen that is being pushed by our opponents to destabilise the investigations. We are not going to be misled by that. We will continue to allow the investigations to conclude.
The case has been further complicated after a lawyer acting for the prime minister and the treasurer applied for a statement to be made, refraining the media from reporting on the matter until after the hearing for the suspended officers. Our correspondent Todagia Kelola says the opposition and media disagreed.
TODAGIA KELOLA: The lawyer for the opposition leader objected to that application and stated that the media must not be gagged because although it's politically sensitive, the rest of Papua New Guinea have a right to know and the media should report it.
Todagia Kelola says the Senior Supreme and National Court judge, Justice Catherine Davani, fell short of giving an order to stop reporting, only giving a statement urging responsible reporting. Meanwhile the police Commissioner Tom Kulunga has asked the finance minister James Marape and the treasurer Don Polye to go in for interviews over their alleged roles in the illegal payments to Paul Paraka Lawyers. Papua New Guinea's former finance secretary, Steven Gibson, has reportedly been arrested for his part in the probe.
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