Gold's costly dividend of rape and poisoning
The ugly side of morality: exploitation

Somare: Maski bulmakau; kakaruk tasol


IT PROMISED A bulmakau and produced a scrawny old kakaruk. Earlier this week a Leadership Tribunal - convened with great flourish, populated with three eminent overseas judges and conducted at substantial cost - found PNG’s prime minister guilty of 13 charges of misconduct in office.

Sir Michael Somare – the Grand Chief and so-called Father of the Nation – had failed to lodge financial returns dating as far back as 20 years, and had not properly submitted others.

This was at least arrogance.  There had been plenty of opportunity to set things to rights.

It was also, and worse, a snubbing of the laws of PNG.  And it was a wilful disregard of the spirit of those laws.

For this abject failure by the nation’s most prominent person – a man who occupies an office of great distinction and great responsibility – the punishment (if punishment is an appropriate word for the merest touch with a feather) is suspension from office up to and including Monday 4 April.

"There was no serious culpability warranting dismal," Tribunal chairman Roger Gyles said.  His New Zealand counterpart agreed with him.  Dissenting judge Sir Robin Auld (UK) did not.

Sir Robin described the PM's attitude towards the charges as "a disregard bordering on disdain for his constitutional obligations" and the Ombudsman Commission.

"It would be bad enough in the case of any leader, but it is particularly reprehensible for one of his high standing and influential involvement in the initiation of the leadership code," he said.

The Tribunal's majority decision  is a joke. 

Were the two majority jurors aware not just of the law but of the context in which this law is  applied?  High office = higher culpability. (Think Marcus Einfeld. Would a person of lesser consequence have been consigned to gaol?)  Sir Robin understood this.

This Leadership Tribunal outcome is an insult to the people of PNG and to their great nation. 

In this case the odd man out was right.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Reginald Renagi

Everyone supporting this man is talking BS. It's a total waste of taxpayers' money - three overseas judges to tell us things all PNGeans know.

It shows the law is an ass and that certain pollies will always get away with it. The outcome proves nothing at all. PM Somare is really laughing at the whole weak justice system in PNG.

The very small fine and suspension have no real deterrent value for the PM and MPs. It just send a very weak message to pollies: yes, go ahead and do what I did.

You are not going to be dismissed but only get a small rap and warned to not do it again.

It's all a bad joke and PNG has become a laughing stock to the world.

The PM should have been dismissed as he has no real excuse but slackness on his part as the boss.

Now PNGeans will not know what the boss has been hiding and not disclosing all these years.

The Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Ian Kemish, said in yesterday's Post-Courier that Australia has 'zero tolerance' on corruption.

There was a slight inference that this sort of humbug by a PM or MP will not be tolerated in Australia.

Can Australia please help PNG here, so we do not get this same old BS result in future.

Peter Kranz

This just played on Radio Australia:

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has been temporarily booted out of office as punishment for misconduct.

The Grand Chief as he's known has been suspended for two weeks after failing to lodge proper financial returns with the corruption watchdog.

It's an unprecedented punishment but some believe it's no more than a symbolic gesture that doesn't go far enough.

After the tribunal imposed its penalty, Sir Michael Somare's lawyer, Kerenga Kua, spoke to the media and gave his reaction, but first a report from PNG correspondent Liam Fox.

Presenter: Liam Fox.
Speakers: Noel Anjo political activist; Stephen Pokawin, National Alliance Party; Bart Philemon opposition MP; Paul Barker, Institute of National Affairs; Kerenga Kua, Sir Michael Somare's lawyer.

LIAM FOX [reporter]: As he left the courtroom smiling and joking with colleagues, Sir Michael Somare didn't look like a man who'd just been ordered out of office.

MICHAEL SOMARE; That's your job, that's your job. I'm going on holiday. What's your response ? (in background Move, move!) I have no response.

FOX: A special leadership tribunal punished Sir Michael for official misconduct with a two-week suspension from office, without pay. It had found him guilty of filing late or incomplete financial returns to the corruption watchdog, the Ombudsman Commission.

The prosecution had called for the 74-year-old to be dismissed from office altogether and one of the three foreign judges on the tribunal agreed.

In his minority decision Sir Robin Auld described Sir Michael's attitude towards the charges as "disregard bordering on disdain for his constitutional obligations."

Nevertheless the two-week suspension handed out by his two fellow tribunal members, Roger Gyles and Sir Bruce Robertson, is an unprecedented penalty. Politicians found guilty of similar offences in the past have only been handed small fines.

But some of those who gathered outside the courtroom, like activist Noel Anjo, don't believe the suspension was tough enough.

NOEL ANJO: The Prime Minister must be dismissed from office. There are many outstanding issues, he should be dismissed from office.

FOX: Others, like Stephen Pokawin from Sir Michael's National Alliance Party, thought the penalty was fair.

STEPHEN POKAWAIN: It's set a new precedent for future consideration by the tribunals.

FOX: Veteran opposition MP Bart Philemon agrees the suspension sets a new precedent, but it's a bad one.

BART PHILEMON: To me this is a landmark case. It sets a precedent for other leaders to hide their earnings because all they can expect is a two week suspension. If the Prime Minister can get away with it, then why waste time with lesser beings.

FOX: Sir Michael was found guilty of filing incomplete financial returns where he'd left out details of his salary and assets. But neither the prosecution nor the Ombudsman Commission investigated his finances to determine exactly what had been omitted.

Paul Barker from the Institute of National Affairs says that has left many people disappointed.

PAUL BARKER: He was clearly concerned about having the whole issue coming up before the tribunal, and he went at several stages to the courts to try to prevent a leadership tribunal actually sitting, so that raised a lot of concern in the public eye, (that) well he's obviously got something to hide.

So if he had something to hide I think the public felt they wanted to know what it was, rather than just the whole case delving into whether he'd submitted his paperwork on time or not.

FOX: In a statement sent out after he was suspended Sir Michael apologised for he what called an "administrative oversight". His suspension starts on the 4th of April and his deputy Sam Abal will become the acting Prime Minister.

Ilya Gridneff - AAP

PNG PM Somare suspended for 14 days
From: AAP
March 24, 2011 6:58PM

PAPUA New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has been suspended from office for two weeks after being found guilty of 13 charges of misconduct.

A three-man tribunal in the capital Port Moresby handed down the decision this afternoon to a packed courtroom that for two weeks had heard the case regarding the PM's failure to lodge financial returns, dating as far back as 20 years ago.

Tribunal chairman Roger Gyles and Sir Bruce Roberts ruled two to one in favour of suspension while Sir Robin Auld wanted Sir Michael to be dismissed from office.

"There was no serious culpability warranting dismal," Mr Gyles said when handing down the suspension.

"The prime minister is suspended from office without pay from and including April 4 for 14 days," he said.

Dissenting judge Sir Robin described the PM's attitude towards the charges as "a disregard bordering on disdain for his constitutional obligations" and the Ombudsman Commission.

"It would be bad enough in the case of any leader, but it is particularly reprehensible for one of his high standing and influential involvement in the initiation of the leadership code," he said.

Sir Michael, 74, who has been at the forefront of PNG politics for 40 years, had since 2008 tried to derail the tribunal through numerous unsuccessful court actions.

But despite the suspension Sir Michael emerged from the court a victor, with huge, cheering crowds.

In a written statement handed to the press immediately after the finding, Sir Michael apologised to PNG for his "administrative oversight".

"As a leader, I take full responsibility for failing to fulfil certain administrative aspects of my duties and responsibilities of leadership by submitting several late and incomplete returns to the Ombudsman Commission".

The two weeks off will be used to spend "quality time" with family in his East Sepik Province electorate, he said.

"I have full faith in my Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal to run the government during my short time away."

Last Monday Mr Gyles told the packed courtroom Sir Michael was guilty of eight charges relating to filing incomplete financial statements as is required under PNG's leadership code.

Sir Michael was also found guilty of five charges related to providing late records, Mr Gyles said.

The tribunal threw out another nine charges and Sir Michael escaped the three more serious charges of failing to provide any statement at all.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)