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Improving children’s justice in Papua New Guinea

Peter O'Neill faces leadership tribunal over Oil Search loan

Peter O'NeillLIAM COCHRANE | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

PAPUA New Guinea's prime minister, Peter O'Neill, has been referred to a leadership tribunal over allegations of misconduct in office relating to a $1.3 billion loan.

The tribunal will consist of three judges and will have the power to dismiss, suspend or fine Mr O'Neill. The first sitting is scheduled for January 26.

Former New Zealand Supreme Court judge Sir Peter Blanchard will chair the tribunal, which will also include Australian John von Doussa QC and Papua New Guinean judge Salatiel Lenalia.

The allegations against Mr O'Neill relate to a loan the PNG government took from the Australian branch of UBS investment bank in order to purchase shares in the petroleum company Oil Search.

A statement from the chief justice said the allegations were "that the prime minister failed to comply with administrative and financial processes including the normal borrowing process" for the loan.

"It is further alleged that the purchasing of the shares was in the interests of Oil Search Limited and not in the interests of the independent state of Papua New Guinea," Sir Salamo Injia said.

Mr O'Neill welcomed the announcement of a leadership tribunal, saying he was keen to clear his name.

"It is best that this tribunal is convened sooner rather than later," he said.

"The referral by the Ombudsman Commission is not on a decision on a personal matter, it relates to a government decision by the cabinet of which I am chairman."

Mr O'Neill also claimed there had been a large amount of "politically motivated misinformation" as well as "blatant lies" relating to the purchase of the Oil Search shares by the PNG government.

"The purchase of these shares is an investment in the key resource infrastructure of our country," he said.

"Without such investment we continue to be bystanders in our own resources sector, which has been the case in decades past."

Mr O'Neill has strong support in the coalition government and is protected from PNG's notoriously common no-confidence motions until February, when a constitutional grace period expires.


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Arnold Mundua

Peter Pirape Anage, well said. Let the Leadership Tribunal put all the issues to rest once and for all.

Peter Pirape Anage

For the sake of the political stability and long term economic sustainability of the country, it is good that finally the Leadership Tribunal has been set up to investiage the PM for his part in this decision to obtain the UBS loan to purchase Oil Search shares.

While the PM is not above the law, there also is no incriminating evidence to suggest that the PM personally benefited from this deal.

This loan arrangement is no different to the IPIC loan arrangement for PNG LNG shares.

However, irrespective of political orientations, PNGians need to be calm and wait patiently for the outcome of this Leadership Tribunal so that all issues can be put to rest once and for all. God bless PNG.

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