I HAVE just witnessed in Madang an awareness rally by UPNG and Unitech students concerning issues over which the students have been protesting and boycotting classes in the last four weeks.
The rally was attended by a large audience of Madang citizens. I congratulate the students for doing a good job in explaining the issues to the public who responded well to this.
The students also emphasised the need for their campaign of awareness to be peaceful and orderly. I have now read the response by prime minister O'Neill to the students' petition and make the following observations.
The prime minister is correct to say that the issues are before the courts. But he does not say which issues in relation to the loan are before the courts, so let me describe them.
- A number of serious issues of procedures and compliances with the laws and the constitution were investigated by the ombudsman commission because this loan was fast tracked through the NEC and pressure was applied to state institutions to give approval.
- The loan did not get parliamentary approval as required by the constitution, because of its size. As the prime minister said parliament approval was only given subsequently after the loan was obtained.
- These possible irregularities are subject of two proceedings.
Leadership tribunal referral
- The ombudsman commission had referred the prime minister to the public prosecutor to refer him to a leadership tribunal under the organic law on leadership.
- The public prosecutor has requested the chief justice to constitute a leadership tribunal to 'investigate' the allegations the public prosecutor intends to refer to the tribunal.
iii. The chief justice has constituted the leadership tribunal and it was scheduled to convene investigations in January 2015, but the prime minister had obtained a national court injunction and had 'questions' referred to the supreme court to answer in relation to the powers of the public prosecutor.
This leadership tribunal investigation is now awaiting the consideration of the questions referred as to whether and when it will continue.
It is important to know that when the supreme court rules that the referral by the public prosecutor is valid and the leadership tribunal can convene and begin the investigations, and the charges are referred to the tribunal by the public prosecutor, the tribunal will advise the prime minister that he is automatically 'suspended' from office until the tribunal concludes it's 'investigation' and makes its determination.
This is an important referral. And so it is important that the prosecution of the reference before the supreme court is expedited by all the parties.
Supreme Court reference by Don Polye
As you will have read Hon Don Polye as the leader of the opposition filed a supreme court reference in relation to the loan as to the constitutional legality of the loan agreement because the government did not obtain parliamentary approval before negotiating and obtaining the loan.
So these are the serious issues relating to the UBS loan and the leadership and personal integrity of the prime minister under the leadership code.
Paraka Lawyers & warrant of arrest
The prime minister keeps making the assertion that the investigations and the issue of the warrant of arrest are politically motivated and that he has the duty to protect the office of prime minister.
And he also keeps insisting that if evidence is produced by the police or Task Force Sweep that he had received any benefits from Paraka Lawyers then he will voluntarily step down.
Again I repeat, these are all matters for a court of law to determine on all the evidence, if he should ever be charged.
Again I repeat, prime minister Peter O'Neill has not yet been charged with any criminal offence. He knows that.
Under our legal system, the police have the duty and power to investigate any allegations or suspicions of a criminal offence by any person at whatever level of society.
They then have a duty to interview any person as potential, witness or potential offender.
The fraud squad investigators have simply requested prime minister O'Neill voluntarily make himself available for an interview. They do not have to produce publicly any evidence in their possession. That will ultimately be a matter for a court of law if he should ever be charged.
So again, why does Peter O’Neill keep misleading and holding the country to ransom by saying the investigation is politically motivated and that he will only step down when the police and Task Force Sweep produce evidence he received benefits from Paraka Lawyers.
Surely he has a legal advisor and knows himself that these are all matters properly to be determined by a court of law on all the evidence properly produced in court according to rules of evidence.
These are not matters for debate in the public media.
I say to again, why is it so difficult to simply voluntarily submit to the due process of the rule of law by allowing yourself to be interviewed by the fraud squad investigators.
You keep insisting that you have a duty to protect the office of prime minister by not submitting to the rule of law by not allowing yourself to be interviewed or to be arrested.
You refused to be interviewed and took out the restraining order against the execution of the warrant of arrest.
Can I suggest to you how to defuse all of these agitations by the students and civil society and indeed preserve the integrity of the office of prime minister?
- Simply withdraw the restraining order against the execution of the warrant of arrest because it will not be necessary to execute it, because
- You voluntarily submit to being interviewed by fraud squad investigators.
- In so doing you will lead by example that the office of prime minister is not above the law, and in fact the first to submit to the due process of the rule of law.
- And you will indeed protect the integrity of the office of prime minister of Papua New Guinea.
Because presently you are truly demeaning the integrity of the office of the prime minister of the people of Papua New Guinea.
It is not your personal office to drag it through the mud for your personal political survival.