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National museum controversy reaching denouement

Julius Violaris - after meeting with Assistant Police Commissioner Giosi Labi MOMASE POLICE commander Giosi Labi has cautioned police not to rush into charging trustees of the National Museum and Art Gallery while a court order is in place for a judicial review of their alleged June sacking by former Culture and Tourism Minister, Guma Wau.

President of the NMAG Board of Trustees, Julius Violaris [pictured], met Mr Labi in Lae yesterday after learning police were going to arrest him over allegations of conspiring with others to defraud the museum and art gallery.

This followed last Thursday's arrest by Boroko police of the respected bank executive Aho Baliki on fraud allegations.

Police alleged Mr Baliki conspired with three other trustees to defraud the museum.  His arrest had come after police acted on a complaint lodged by museum director and chief executive officer, Meck Kuk.

Mr Baliki’s arrest angered Mr Violaris, who had been working with him to protect NMAG's funds and assets from theft and maladministration.

Last Friday Mr Violaris wrote to Finance Minister Don Polye advising him that the charges against Mr Baliki were “trumped up and malicious”.

He said they were “vindictively applied by the current director of the museum Meck Kuk because we have denied him unaccountable access to the NMAG’s funds”.

During the meeting with the Momase police commander, Mr Violaris gave him copies of documents relating to the matter, including National Court orders that the minister’s decision to sack the Board be stayed and that the Board be granted leave to apply for judicial review of the minister’s action.

After studying the documents, Mr Labi took to the telephone advising his superiors and colleagues in Port Moresby to take care with the case while the court orders are in place.

Bradshaw Lawyers, acting for the Board of Trustees, explained that the Court decision means that Mr Violaris and his Board continue to remain in office.

After leaving Mr Lab, Mr Violaris instructed his lawyers to serve a letter on Joseph Tondop, the National Capital District Metropolitan Police commander, reminding him of the court orders.

The letter advised Mr Tondop that Julius Violaris, Peter Loko, Andrew Abel, Maria Kopkop, Nora Vagi Brash and Dr Michael Mel are current trustees of the NMAG.  A copy of the court orders staying proceedings was also enclosed in the letter to Mr Tondop.

“The effect of the stay order is that our clients continue in office as Trustees and can exercise and perform functions as Trustees,” the letter stated.

Prior to Mr Wau being replaced as Minister he had received a letter from Bradshaw Lawyers telling him he did not have power to suspend any of the Trustees.

Bradshaw Lawyers also advised that the Trustees have the power to determine how the bank accounts of the museum should be operated in compliance with the law.

Mr Violaris is expected back in Port Moresby today and will meet with Public Service Minister Bart Philemon to discuss this matter and the position of the NMAG chief executive officer.

Source: Post-Courier, 28 September, and other sources


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