Corruption: When silence speaks the people can live again
Urgency required to prepare for a Bougainville referendum

Prominent PNGns respond with alarm to O’Neill intervention

Reinstate Demaru posterKEITH JACKSON

I KNOW how hard it is in Papua New Guinea to resist the power of the State. The democratic tradition has shallow roots and the clout of money is strong.

This often leads to an unhappy trade-off between the right thing to do for country and personal benefit. Altruism is in short supply.

But this is a critical time for Papua New Guineans. The country is sliding towards rule by oligarchs and people of strength and integrity need to stand up and be counted.

What good and decent Papua New Guineans don't seem to be able to count on any more is the support and influence of the Australian government.

Let's catch up with where this saga got to following a dramatic weekend.

On Saturday, after strong public hints from prime minister Peter O’Neill, and who knows what verbal instructions, police commissioner Gary Baki suspended police fraud directorate chief Matthew Damaru and stood down his team, accusing them of undermining his authority and of being corrupt.

After a week in which a senior judge, the justice minister and the prime minister’s lawyer were arrested, the team was reportedly on the verge of charging Mr O’Neill himself over matters related to the so-called Paraka affair in which millions of kina of public funds were allegedly misappropriated.

An O’Neill appointee, Commissioner Baki said he had learned of the high-profile arrests through the media, which he considered an act of insubordination in total defiance of his office.

“The established practice and procedure is that all high profile cases are briefed up through the chain of command and ultimately to the office of the Commissioner,” Baki said.

But prominent commentator and analyst Martyn Namorong advised people not to believe “public relations spin that the fraud squad should have warned Baki about the arrests.

“If investigating officers believe reporting a particular case to superiors may undermine investigations, should the investigating officers advice their superior about an impending arrest?” Namorong asked.

“The fraud squad has been in situations where police commissioners have sided in court with the high profile people they wanted to arrest. Naturally the fraud squad would be wary of informing the Commissioner of impending high profile arrests.”

Meanwhile, outspoken Oro governor, Gary Juffa, has predicted that Papua New Guinea is “marching towards certain chaos”.

“We see factions in the police force developing into what can only become a dangerous stand-off. A population grows anxious and restless. The justice system must move and move with as much haste as practicable. Failure to do so will lead to certain anarchy.”

Elder statesman and former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta was also alarmed at these developments.

“Mr O’Neill knows well that the Office of the Prime Minister is not a personal possession,” Sir Mekere said in a media statement. “It is a Constitutional office, the highest in the land, and it belongs to the people and the State. It does not belong to Peter O’Neill. It is there to serve the people and the nation; it is not there to serve the interests of the incumbent.’

Sir Mekere pointed out that the power of the prime minister “should not be used as a weapon to protect the incumbent from due process, or to cause due process to be thwarted.

“A shadow has been cast over the Office of the Prime Minister by the activities of Mr O’Neill in relation to the exercise of the warrant for his arrest, and the police investigation of the Paraka case from which the criminal charges he faces derive,” he said.

In a direct comment on the suspension of fraud squad, Sir Mekere said that police officers, judges, magistrates, lawyers and other authorities must be free to do their jobs without fear of official retribution or political interference.

“No person should be suspended from duty for doing his or her duty, much less when that duty involves an investigation into the prime minister himself,” he observed.

“That is political interference of the worst sort. It has added to the cloud of oppression and intimidation that hangs over Papua New Guineans, heightened by physical violence and threats of physical violence.

“Papua New Guineans rightly expect the Fraud Squad officers to be reinstated immediately and be allowed to get on with the job.”

Sir Mekere said the same considerations applied to Mr O’Neill.

“If he is innocent, has nothing to be afraid of,” he said.

But then Sir Mekere stepped up the rhetoric.

“The Prime Minister has lost touch with reality. He is talking to himself, fooling himself, and believing his own stories. He is listening only to a small clique of advisers and cronies.

“Instead Mr O’Neill should listen instead to what concerned citizens are saying. For a start he should hand himself in to the police and tell them what he knows about the Paraka case, and what his involvement was.

“Mr O’Neill has stated publicly that he knows ‘who are the real financial beneficiaries of the Paraka transactions’ and that he ‘looks forward to the facts seeing the light of day on this issue’. Now is the time, prime minister. Now is the time. Not through the media, but through the police and the courts."


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Daniel Kumbon

Baki is now using Huafolo to do the dirty work. Huafolo should restrain himself, respect the courts, keep calm and act like a professional cop.

mathias kin

BREAKING NEWS: Damaru and his officers reinstated by Supreme court this afternoon. Than some police men led by a Huafolo with guns hold up the fraud office at Konedobu Port Moresby and are not going to allow Damaru or anybody in. This happened a few minutes back (5.40 pm)

Francis Nii

Simply put, Baki the puppet dancing to the O'Neill the conductor's remote controlled string.
Shameful and disgraceful.

Michael Dom

Baki was the one doing the sniffing - and just like the rest of O'Neill's kennel he can also fetch, beg and roll over and play dead, like a good doggy.

Chris Overland

Commissioner Baki has made, at a bare minimum, a grave error in judgement in acting when and how he did.

Even if you accept his explanation on face value, the timing of his actions is exquisitely bad.

He had options other than to suspend his supposedly out of control Chief Superintendent. He could have admonished Damaru and demanded a full briefing on the matters in question, before making his own judgement on the appropriateness or otherwise of the actions taken.

It seems that he did not do this, choosing instead to react in a knee jerk manner.

At one level this is understandable: as a former Chief Executive, I disliked intensely being presented with faits accompli by subordinates, especially on politically sensitive matters.

In my judgement, he would have been far better advised to stay his hand, take a deep breathe and count to 10, then take his time assessing his options carefully.

Now, rightly or wrongly, he is being seen as a mere lacky of the Prime Minister. Loud protestations to the contrary won't help diminish this impression amongst very many observers.

Also, he may well have needlessly exacerbated existing tensions within the RPNGC between those whose instinct is to collaborate with the government (whether for good reasons or bad) and those whose wish is to put that relationship at the longest possible arm's length.

To put it bluntly, his actions do not and will not pass the proverbial sniff test.

His best plan now is to reconsider his past actions with a view to rescinding his suspension orders and allow Damaru et al to resume their work. Any allegations against them can still be properly investigated.

Better an embarrassing admission of having acted in haste than being forever seen as yet another corrupt cop.

Paul Oates

Let’s try and determine what the Police Commissioner Baki, appears to have said in yesterday’s lengthy press release about what is going on with the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate?

Commissioner Baki maintains:
1. The Directorate is out of control and he wishes to restore integrity to the RPNGC.
2. Chief Superintendent Damaru and Deputy Gitua and their staff have continually defied directions and have been insubordinate. They have acted outside of established procedure.
3. OIC Fraud Inspector Simatab has been arrested and charged with bribery.
4. Four other members of the Fraud Directorate have also been suspended over an unauthorised investigation into the Simbu Provincial Administration. Further investigations will follow.
5. All members of the RPNGC are required to obey the orders and direction of the Police Commissioner.
6. Damaru conducted investigations outside of normal procedures. This was done to prevent the CoP from exercising control over what (these) police were doing. These recent high level investigations were not at CoP Baki’s direction nor did he sanction them. He only learned about these investigations and arrests through the media.
7. He has evidence that Fraud Squad officers have been bribed to conduct investigations in the Simbu and Eastern Highlands. These claims are being investigated.
8. The RPNGC must be independent and transparent in its investigations and actions and ‘not be open to interference, collusion and influence by and with outside interests’.
9. Damaru and his staff should have briefed the Commissioner before they acted.
10. Only when CoP Baki has established that the case is ‘prosecutable’ will he allow the person to be interviewed.
11. These officers have treated the position of CoP with contempt by not informing him before they acted.
12. These officers, although suspended, must still continue to prosecute the existing cases in court.
13. Commissioner Baki’s decision to suspend them has nothing to do with the particular recent (high level) cases and the timing of my decision is not the issue.
14. Commissioner Baki asks that people give him the benefit of doubt and let him get on with doing his job.

What are we now be expected to think?

Do these claims pass ‘the bar test’? i.e. Are they credible and will they be believed by the average person?

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