Petition calls for ICAC within 100 days

July 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Source: ACT NOW!

Community advocacy group ACT NOW! has launched a petition calling on newly elected MPs to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption within 100 days.

“Everyone knows corruption is a massive problem in Papua New Guinea”, says Campaign Coordinator, Eddie Tanago. “People are dying unnecessarily every day because of the rampant stealing and the mismanagement it causes.”

ACT NOW! says well resourced, permanent and politically independent, Commission Against Corruption [ICAC] is desperately needed.

“This new petition is urging our newly elected MPs to take responsibility and do something effective by immediately establishing an ICAC,” says Mr Tanago.

ACT NOW! says the 100 day timetable is achievable as all the legislation needed for an ICAC has already been drafted and the necessary Constitutional amendment was passed by Parliament in 2016.

It has been estimated as much as 50% of the government’s annual development budget is stolen every yearand police have said K1.5 billion went missing in 2016 alone.2 PNG is ranked in the bottom 20% of all countries for corruption by Transparency International.3

“The consequences of this corruption are dire. Vital health and education services starved of money and mismanagement and abuse further impede service delivery. Then there are all the illegal land deals that keep happening and illegal logging”, says Mr Tanago.

“Existing anti-corruption mechanisms have proven to be ineffective and a new body with full powers of investigation and prosecution is urgently needed”.

“In 2012, the incoming government promised to establish an ICAC as a major step in the fight against corruption. But over the next five-years it failed to fulfil that promise. Our new MPs must ensure they do better”.

The secrets behind O’Neill’s hidden fortune – The Midas Touch Part III

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

PNGi has released Part 3 of The Midas Touch, an in-depth report into Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s business empire and how its development has been interwoven with his political career.

Lift Off: Prime Minister, Millionaire reveals O’Neill’s private business interests have included oil and gas industry support services, construction, airlines, insurance, finance and banking, consumer lending, information technology, funeral services, hospitality and gambling, travel and tourism, and consultancy services.

It also shows how, as Peter O’Neill’s political career reached its crowning peak in 2011, his business empire underwent an astonishing period of growth.

At its height, this empire commanded assets worth in excess of K250 million, although even this figure doesn’t account for any corporate holdings held on trust for O’Neill or held through other proxy shareholdings.

There is nothing necessarily sinister in a business empire, but in a national economy where the state is a major investor and consumer, having a Prime Minister personally possessing significant stakes in key markets, generates fertile ground for conflicts of interest.

Avoiding conflicts of interest is a demand enshrined in the Constitution, Section 27 states a leader must not ‘ place himself in a position in which he has or could have a conflict of interests’ and ‘shall not use his office for personal gain’ or ‘enter into any transaction or engage in any enterprise or activity that might give rise to doubt in the public mind’.

To test how Peter O’Neill matches up to these standards, PNGi has mapped his business empire, through a convoluted web of companies in which he has an explicit stake. In doing so, PNGi has uncovered evidence that O’Neill’s businesses have directly benefited from government contracts and contracts awarded or funded by international financial institutions and foreign governments.

Key findings include:

  • O’Neill’s business Wild Cat Developments, which he has recently sold, was one of the first to benefit from the construction of the controversial new Western Pacific University, in the Prime Minister’s Pangia-Ialibu electorate.
  • Wild Cat has also earned significant multi million kina revenues from Asian Development Bank funded projects.
  • O’Neill used the Prime Minister’s office to patronise a joint-venture he shares with Sir Luciano and Lady Ni Yumei Cragnolini, without seemingly revealing his beneficial interest.
  • Remington Technology, another company in which the Prime Minister has a substantial stake, has benefited from contracts with state entities, government departments, and Australian government agencies.

Lift Off: Prime Minister, Millionaire also reveals O’Neill owned entities have consistently breached important reporting requirements set out in the Company Act 1997.

These findings raise a series of important technical questions:

  • Has Peter O’Neill declared all his interests to the Ombudsman Commission and sought special dispensation for his voluminous range of business interests?
  • Did he recuse himself from any National Executive Council (NEC) decision, which his companies would benefit from, directly or indirectly?
  • Have the contracts complied with the governance protocols of the relevant International Financial Institutions and foreign government agencies?

The findings also raise some ethical issues:

  • Is it right for senior political figures to retain large business holdings?
  • Should a Prime Minister be able to personally profit from decisions made by his government, even where he has recused himself from the decision making process, and declared his assets to the Ombudsman Commission?

PNGi says The Midas Touch is based on months of digitally assisted analysis of several thousand corporate records, hundreds of official documents and media reporting. It comprises three parts:

  1. The Secret Millionaire: Inside the O’Neill Empire
  2. The Big Skim: Peter O’Neill Inc meets Don Sawong and Tos Barnett
  3. Lift Off: Prime Minister, Millionaire

Tomato seeks to silence PNG political blogger Namorong

July 13, 2017 Leave a comment

KEITH JACKSON

THE Waigani National Court has granted an order sought by electoral commissioner Patilias ‘Tomato’ Gamato (pictured) against the celebrated Papua New Guinean writer, blogger, commentator and social justice fighter Martyn Namorong.

The order was granted by justice Collin Mikail in response to an urgent application by Gamato’s lawyer.

It sought to ban what were termed “defamatory remarks” about Gamato by Namorong.

It was reported the case arose “from alleged defamatory remarks the blogger made on social media associating commissioner Gamato to a fruit.”

That is, a tomato.

Namarong was not present for the hearing because court officials apparently could not locate the well-known public figure to serve documents.

Namorong responded by using social media to publish an image of himself gagged (pictured, with applause from his family).

And on Twitter, Namorong said: “Just heard I am being taken to court. I need a pro bono lawyer.”

To which PNG Attitude has offered to launch a public appeal to establish a fund to defend Namorong if the matter is pursued in court. Stand by, stout souls, on this one.

Mikail ruled the case must come before the court again on Monday 25 July, set to be known locally in some parts of the South Pacific as ‘International Tomato Day’.

PNGi Portal a groundbreaking new resource for lawyers, journalists and academics

July 10, 2017 3 comments

In a country plagued by corruption, where politicians are seemingly more concerned with making personal profits that serving the nation, and where the law enforcement agencies are brutally under resourced, a new online database is poised to shake up the status quo and offer some hope to a beleaguered population.

Corruption thrives in Papua New Guinea because there is so little public access to information but now that is changing.

PNGi Portal is a groundbreaking online resource that provides access to both the details of company ownership and more than 20 years of anti-corruption investigations by government agencies.

Lawyers, journalists, academics and the public can now see who owns the companies that are being awarded dubious government contracts , they can track where politicians and public servants have been citied in official inquiries and they can link and cross reference the two sets of data.

Interested in a Paul Paraka? Just type the name and, with one click of a mouse, you can see that it appears in the company records of a long list of companies, including Klinki Rain Forest Limited, Kumu Builders, Kumu Construction, PB and Venna Ltd, PJ and Sons, PKP Consultancy Services, PKP Nominees, PPL Investments, PPM & Kids, PW & Kids, Siane No.s 1,2,3 and 4 and more…

But that is not all, you can also see the name Paul Paraka appears in twenty-two documents in the database of more than 500 reports, and with one click you can view not only the document but the very pages where the name appears!

All this is available to anyone via the internet and access is free.

Whether you are a lawyer or company executive interested in doing due diligence on a new client, potential business opportunity or an investment; a journalist writing a story in which an MP or a company features; a police officer investigating a potential crime; an academic or student researching a particular topic; or just a curious member of the public, the PNGi Portal provides access to a wealth of information that was previously inaccessible or completely hidden.

But the PNGi Portal does not stand alone, it has a sister website, PNGi Central, that demonstrates the functionality and power of the information available via the portal.

PNGi Central is a reporting hub that presents, in a range of different formats, the results of investigations by a network of journalists and academics. They are using the PNGi Portal to investigate not only corrupt deals but also the hidden and opaque systems of political and economic power that nurture and sustain them.

William Duma’s hidden hand in K3 billion Paga Hill Development

July 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Source: PNGi Investigates

A special PNGi investigation, has revealed insider evidence that suspended States Enterprises Minister, William Duma, has a hidden interest in the Paga Hill Estate, a public-private venture valued at K3 billion.

The acquisition of this equity stake, in what is said to be an APEC host site, allegedly took place through Duma’s firm Kopana Investments Limited, which went from a 1 kina shelf company to a K28 million mega-venture virtually overnight.

PNGi also presents evidence that Kopana Investments originally acquired land at Paga Hill in 2009, through a set of transactions, slammed by the Supreme Court.

All of this comes as the PNG public awaits for the results of an administrative inquiry into Duma’s alleged role in the Manumanu land scandal, which was supposed to be tabled in parliament over three months ago (28 March).

Read more: http://pngicentral.org/…/william-dumas-hidden-hand-in-k3-bi…

Why these PNG elections are taking us towards dictatorship

July 4, 2017 1 comment

Oro Governor Gary Juffa speaking at a campaign gathering … explaining the qualities to look for in national leadership.

Source: Gary Juffa | Pacific Media Centre

I suspect that these Papua New Guinea elections have been so deliberately set to fail, leaving much room for fraud and confusion, that we will be distracted from what is really going on – the establishment of a dictatorship.

Already Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has his own special police unit that flies around Papua New Guinea escorting him in his private airlines, he has a special army unit of 40 exclusively for his callout, he controls the media and Public Service.

And, it seems, the Police and Defence commands — and perhaps the judiciary … the signs and red flags are blinking bright red now…

Yet many people do not see it at all. We are inching closer towards dictatorship and the ensuing bloodshed and violence that must come from the hostility towards it. But like lemmings and sheep, we are led to that reality with little resistance at all. Is this the Papua New Guinea we all believed in once upon a time?

Last Wednesday in Oro province provided a demonstration of how much the PNG government is not for PNG. It was also a demonstration of how democracy should not work.

For instance, the majority — between a third and a half — of Popondetta Urban voting age citizens have not voted because the current common roll does not have their names. Many citizens claim they had made the effort to update their details and were still turned away.

Preliminary roll ‘okay’
Meanwhile, Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has advised that the preliminary roll can be used. This means he indirectly agrees that the EC failed to effectively update the 2017 roll. This instruction was obviously not made known to Electoral Commission officials managing the polling at the Independence Oval on Wednesday.

Many people who had taken time out and had travelled to vote were turned away angry and anxious. This election was certainly costing them. They will have to come back for the last day, but the slowness will probably ensure that a large group will not have been processed by the end of the polling at 4pm.

This will mean that democracy certainly did not prevail in this instance. In fact, many will probably agree that come the end of these elections, democracy was hardly a reality everywhere in Papua New Guinea.

This should hardly be a surprise given that we have actually endured a covert dictatorship and hardly realised it.

Own effort
Meanwhile, not a few of the learned are saying that everyone should have made their own effort to ensure they were registered.

A true statement we all would like to agree with. I was tempted to think this way too. Then I thought of my people in rural PNG. My uncles and aunts who do not read or write and are at once the greatest selfless humans I know and, despite whatever people think, are equal shareholders of this great nation, Papua New Guinea.

They too deserve to vote. They too deserve to be informed. They too have the right to be given the opportunity to decide whether they want to update their details on the common role or not.

May I just say to all my learned friends making such statements as “it’s your fault if you are not on the roll; stop whinging”, that this would be true if the awareness programme had been been carried out sufficiently and it would be true in a society which is totally literate and where means of communication are available to all, a society that, say, had more then just 40 years or so as an independent nation of 1000 tribes with their own language groupings and cultural peculiarities.

Such statements are also spiteful about our people. Many of our people who live in rural PNG do not have access to the benefits of technology and modern services and goods that you may have had and may have now.

Our people, remember them? Well some of these are the people who will adore you and feed you and love you selflessly when or should you ever go home for a visit from time to time.

It would also be a safe statement to make if Papua New Guinea were governed by a government which allowed information access for all. A government that made funding available for provincial governments and relevant information dissemination entities like the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

Government by the people
Of course, that would have to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people …which this government clearly is not, if any of its decisions made in the last five years are anything to go by.

It is clear that the Electoral Commission failed. But the commission is not entirely to be blamed because, the buck stops at the top, and that’s the People’s National Congress (PNC) government of Peter O’Neill.

They have totally failed in the last five years to ensure that everyone was on the roll.

The awareness programme was an abysmal failure. Rural Papua New Guinea especially had virtually no knowledge of this. That’s 85 percent of PNG.

Adequately informed
Were our people adequately informed? They were not.

The Electoral Commission had five years to do this. It failed.

Just as it did with the K200 million national identity (NID) project. Deliberately too, it appears.

This government failed. Peter O’Neill failed

The 2017 Elections are looking very much like a failure.

A planned failure, perhaps … it has to be.

Sipping champagne
From the PNC government’s perspective, maybe they are chuckling and sipping champagne and congratulating each other on a job well done. Chaos provides opportunities for those who plan it to. Who knows?

Meanwhile in stark contrast, preparations for APEC seem to be going on very well. Surprise, surprise. Funding is abundantly available and preparatory meetings, plans, strategies and training and capacity testing efforts are well in progress. Not a few MPs whose companies will be involved in various services needed have already picked up hefty contracts.

So obviously the government can do a great job. If it suits them.

Ask yourself, is APEC more important then the democratic rights of a people to elect their leaders to represent their interests in Parliament?

This just shows how much the PNC government cares for its people. How much? In my measure, it was so weak and poor an effort, so pathetic, it was “zilch”.

Gary Juffa’s commentaries are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. This commentary is a combination of two of his latest pieces.

Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture 

June 29, 2017 2 comments

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government.

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd.

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine.

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.