Leader of the Opposition Sir Mekere Morauta has described the alleged assassination plot against former Attorney General and Rabaul MP Dr Allan Marat as a most-worrying development in Papua New Guinea politics.
Sir Mekere has called on the police and all relevant state law-enforcing agencies to urgently investigate the matter.
He expressed concern that the apparent plot to kill Dr Marat was linked to Dr Marat’s statements against the Government, exposing corruption and criticising certain aspects of the multi-billion kina PNG LNG and Ramu Nickel.
“It is a very serious and frightening development if the Government or its agents are using such measures to silence critics.
“The revelation of an assassination plot against Dr Allan Marat should not be taken lightly. It is a very serious matter that demands most immediate and appropriate action by relevant state agencies.
“Why should elected leaders who speak their mind freely on issues of national importance be subject to threats?” the former prime minister asked.
“This is a serious matter. It involves life and death. Therefore it calls for immediate police action to investigate and establish the validity of the assassination plot and take immediate measures to both counter it and deal with any perpetrators,” Sir Mekere said.
“At the same time I urge leaders not to be deterred by such tactics. They should strengthen our resolve to expose the evils of the current Government, not silence us.”
Former Attorney General and MP for Rabaul Dr Allan Marat claimed last week that a plot was hatched, allegedly by three leaders, to assassinate him.
Dr Marat, in a press statement, alleged the plot to kill him was over his honesty in speaking out against corrupt practices in government circles.
He revealed the plot during a meeting initiated by the Sepik community living in and around Rabaul on Tuesday.
Dr Marat, as Attorney General, had been critical of the government’s handling of various affairs of national interest, among them the LNG project agreements and the proposed amendments to the Ombudsman Commission Act.
On the LNG project, Dr Marat said PNG would get “crumbs” while foreigners would benefit the most from the project.
He then broke ranks with the Government over the proposed amendments to the Ombudsman Commission Act and told PNG that the mover of the Bill, Moses Maladina had lied to Parliament. The amendments are expected to be tabled in the next session of Parliament.
As a result, the Prime Minister asked him to resign and May 6, Dr Marat tendered his resignation and at the same time, withdrew the support of his Melanesian Liberal Party from the Government.
At the Rabaul gathering, he told the meeting three pastors and a woman showed up at his Port Moresby home at around 10pm and exposed the plan which he alleged was funded by three very senior leaders to kill him.
He alleged that two days later on Friday, the neighbourhood noticed two suspicious looking vehicles frequenting his street about 10 times.
Dr Marat claimed the information was from very reliable sources who were insiders who had given him plate numbers of the vehicles to be used, the type of vehicles and the names of the three leaders who had allegedly contributed cash for the planned assassination.
He told the gathering that he was exposing this because he did not want this kind of activity to destroy the good relationship being enjoyed among others and Tolais in Rabaul.
“We don’t want a repeat of what happened some years ago when I was a little boy. We are already enjoying the relationship we have established and this should remain.
“Some people can easily be enticed with blood money and I warn you not to accept anything, for the good of the country.
“We are supposed to be one people, one nation but if this kind of practice is being encouraged by senior ministers, where is our country heading?” Dr Marat asked.
The meeting was attended by the provincial police commander Superintendent Sylvester Kalaut, Rabaul police station commander Chief Inspector Raymond Theodore, members of the Rabaul Open Members Central Committee and members of the Sepik community in Rabaul.
Speaking on behalf of the Sepik Community Robert Marus assured the Member for Rabaul that they would continue to stand with him to fight against corruption and they had guaranteed their support to stop any activities relating to the alleged conspiracy to shoot him.
The Sepik leaders have planned to meet to present a petition to the Governor of East New Britain, Leo Dion, as he is a member of the ruling National Alliance Party.
Dr Marat was reportedly conducting educational awareness meeting in his electorate to inform his people of the plan to assassinate him.
Here is the whole of the Commission of Inquiry report into bogus land deals – INVESTIGATION REPORTS- A. LAND
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In another disturbing sign that the Somare government is becoming increasingly autocratic and authoritarian, The National has reported Goroka police this week arrested three members of a Port Moresby based non-government organisation for protesting peacefully against government changes to the law.
The group was touring the Highlands to advocate on the “negative effects” of the Government’s amendments to the Ombudsman Commission and the Forestry Acts.
Police closed in on the trio during an open-air rally at Goroka’s National Park on Monday and frog-marched them to the police station. After an intensive interrogation they were set free and instructed to end their public awareness at 4pm.
Some of the 3000 people who flocked to the scene have criticised police for “disturbing the gathering”. Police had also cautioned the anti-corruption advocates to refrain from disseminating “anti government propaganda.”
The group also highlighted other areas in which “the Government has failed to address like the country’s law and order issues and corruption in higher places.”
Rowan Callick / The Australian
Good governance has fallen hostage to elements of the elite who siphon off vast sums of public money
PAPUA New Guinea’s assistant Auditor-General Gordon Kega has discovered $2 million was paid to 87 people “for unknown services” out of relief funds given to Oro province following cyclone Guba in November 2007.
His investigation urges criminal charges against those who “fraudulently and illegally paid themselves”, often simply by shifting money from the relief funds into their personal bank accounts.
A further $800,000 was paid to businesses and other organisations for goods and services that were unverifiable.Those involved included “disaster officials, senior government officers, bank officers”.
A few days ago, Oro’s provincial administrator Owen Awaita urged AusAID to build a permanent bridge in the province after its predecessor was washed away by cyclone Guba, since temporary alternatives have also collapsed. “The sooner AusAID steps in, the better it will be for the bulk of the population who depend heavily on the bridge,” Awaita said.
The connection is palpable. PNG has been undergoing a transition through which an extraordinary proportion of public funds have been purloined by members of the elite, while 40 per cent of Papua New Guineans live on less than $US1 ($1.19) a day. This gap is being accelerated by the prospect of instant wealth around the corner from ExxonMobil’s $16.5 billion liquefied natural gas project, still four years from operation. The stress on the LNG deal has helped build a climate in which corruption appears to be viewed by some beneficiaries merely as booking private spending against future national earnings that are expected to be bottomless.
At the same time, government services have been declining, putting increased pressure on aid, especially from Australia, which the Rudd government is increasing in the next financial year, to $457m. The Rudd government meanwhile has cancelled the annual ministerial forum with PNG, due to limitations on ministerial travel in election year.
PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare, lionised globally as a Third World champion against climate change, a fortnight ago attended a conference on that issue in Norway. Last month while visiting New Zealand, he told the University of Auckland that LNG projects would “increase our revenue to an unprecedented level and transform PNG”, and that as a “big brother” to other Pacific island nations, PNG would be “in a position to provide development assistance within our region”.
But the country has been suffering widespread outbreaks of cholera during the past nine months, with more than 2600 cases so far, including 56 deaths, indicating poor sanitation and inadequate access to safe drinking water. Sales of fresh seafood have plummeted as people grow nervous of the disease, which has hit 573 people in Port Moresby.
Recently, the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier newspaper reported the pathology section of the main Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae, the country’s second city, is on the verge of collapse. Francis Bannick, the doctor in charge, describes the situation as desperate.
Lae has been unable to buy equipment needed urgently to enable pathology work to be carried out there — costing about $500,000 — replacing obsolete or broken machines. And medical specimens and biopsies instead sent to Port Moresby General Hospital for analysis have not received any response since September last year.
Recently, life expectancy has begun to decline and infant mortality to rise. Yet Health Minister Sasa Zibe has committed $9m towards a new high-end public-private Pacific Medical Centre in Port Moresby.
A recent survey of nine local government districts in PNG has found that apart from in the immediate vicinity of the local MP’s core support base, most services and new projects are provided by churches, non-government organisations and aid donors, but not by the government.
The country’s chief road artery — the Highlands Highway that links the most populous region to the coast at Lae — is in dire straits. Bafinue Roika, managing director of 14-vehicle trucking firm KK & Sons, says: “If nothing is done to fix the highway, we may head for disaster because the only thing to do is to shut down operations.”
Opposition Leader and former central bank governor and prime minister Mekere Morauta told parliament last month: “People are tired. People have lost faith. People are sick of secret deals. People are craving for services.”
At the same time, he said: “The government, and many people, have been intoxicated by the anticipated wealth and opportunities of LNG. The nation is now feeling the effect of the early stages of the project. “The domestic cost structure has increased markedly. Many bad side effects will flow from the LNG-driven price inflation. Poverty will intensify, leading to other social problems.
“Many people have flown to Port Moresby from Southern Highlands, where the main gas field is located, seeking cash from various grants available from the government. Self-styled consultants are eagerly signing up such clients and representing them to government agencies, for commissions.
“There are enormous expectations,” says PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum executive director Greg Anderson, who stresses the need to manage them carefully. “There are dangers this could emerge as a huge cargo cult in the minds of many. “Government funds are already confirmed as a successful cargo cult that keeps on giving, with little downside for the beneficiaries.
Mowana Ugwalabu, general secretary of the PNG Teachers Association, said recently the teachers’ payroll list contains thousands of ghost names whose pay is going to outsiders while teachers struggle to get paid at all.
In March, Somare tabled in parliament the 818-page report of a separate commission of inquiry into corruption at the top levels of the bureaucracy, which was chaired by retired PNG judge Maurice Sheehan, a New Zealander, with fellow commissioners Cathy Davani and senior PNG businessman Don Manoa. But an injunction was granted banning the report’s publication and implementation as soon as it was tabled. And extraordinarily, the government has not sought so far to have the injunction lifted.
The government, however, has moved rapidly to pass legislation sheltering resource projects from all litigation over the destruction of the environment, labour abuse or landowner exploitation. This follows the growing anxiety of China’s Metallurgical Construction Corp, the developer of the $1.5bn Ramu nickel mine, about the effect of injunctions especially, recently, those granted to halt its construction of a pipeline to slurry tailings into the sea.
Deputy Opposition Leader Bart Philemon, a former treasurer, says the new legislation protects the interests of investors at the expense of the resource owners and the environment. Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop says it delivers “almost absolute power to the government” on such matters.
Philemon says Somare is “dangling five carrots before the eyes” of backbench MPs to secure their support. Parliament last week approved the establishment of five new ministerial portfolios, thus bringing to 32 the cabinet positions, out of 109 MPs. Somare this week justified the new legislation, however, saying: “We cannot get mining going while this is in court. The Prime Minister’s Department has been held to ransom by [the judiciary]. The government will lose a lot [of money].” This is even though he has granted the Ramu project a 10-year tax holiday.
A clamour had arisen demanding the suspension of National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten over claims of corruption. Tiensten returned to his constituency. But Somare then sent the government’s Falcon jet to bring Tiensten back in triumph to Port Moresby.
The Supreme Court chalked up a win over the government recently, however, in insisting on the suspension of Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch following his indictment by the Ombudsman Commission for corruption. Justice Nicholas Kirriwom said in awarding the decision against Pruaitch — overturning an earlier stay order — that “for a leader to remain in office when he has been referred [to a leadership tribunal] is a mockery of the constitution”.
Legislation to water down the powers of the Ombudsman Commission, which polices corruption, has been backed by the government. But it was postponed to later in the year following mass demonstrations.
Morauta warns: “If the Ombudsman Commission goes, there is no country.” Somare says there is no intention to remove the commission, describing the demonstrators as “ol long long” (they’re mad).
Paul Barker, executive director of the Institute of National Affairs, PNG’s independent think tank, says: “The few reformers within the government seem to have inadequate political and bureaucratic backing to push through the massive changes needed for government to contribute rather than be a dead weight to a productive and inclusive economy and society.
RABAUL MP Dr Allan Marat has questioned Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare for failing to remove the three MPs implicated by suspected bank robber William Kapris, The National reports.
He said Kapris had revealed the names of two ministers and the deputy parliamentary speaker in the Supreme Court.
One of the two ministers named was suspended treasury and finance minister Patrick Pruaitch.
Marat said Correctional Services Minister Tony Aimo and Deputy Speaker Francis Marus were still holding on to their offices despite the revelations of their alleged involvement with criminals.
“Can’t the prime minister act swiftly to remove them to salvage whatever decency there is left of the government?” he told a large crowd in the Kokopo Secondary School hall for the 2010 Kokopo Walk against Corruption forum on Sunday.
“If the prime minister cannot, then he should come out in public and tell the nation why he is holding on to them.
“I stood up for what is right that went against the government’s interests and Sir Michael did not hesitate to sack me in the most humiliating manner in front of all the other ministers and backbenchers,” he said.
Marat said Sir Michael’s favourite expression was that “ministers alleged to have committed misconduct in office were presumed innocent until proven guilty”.
“That expression is not consistently applied.
“So what is the real reason for holding them back as there are many capable backbenchers who can do the job?
“Some of us are used by the National Alliance (NA) party merely as numbers to form the government. After that, some of us are nothing but figures to the party,” Marat said.
“We were deliberately avoided and the views, opinions and advice of other people were taken and acted upon, much to our surprise and disapproval.”
Marat said there were no real respect for certain ministers and what the ruling NA party wanted must be done at all costs.
“For lamenting the failures of the past and present governments in not preparing and building up our human capacity in readiness for the extractive industry and in particular the LNG project, I was removed,” he said.
Marat had expressed doubts about the reality of the foreign consultant’s reports on the safety impact of tailings to the environment and citizens on the proposed Nautilus Mining in the Bismarck Archipelago, proposed smelting facility and dumping of tailings at the old Rabaul airport area and Ramu Nico’s deep sea tailings in the Basamuk Bay in Madang.
“My stand against the proposed Maladina amendments to the leadership code was the last straw,” Marat said.
By JULIA DAIA BORE
THE National Court has been asked to lift the ban placed on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance and Treasury.
Since the inquiry report was tabled in Parliament in March, a judge had placed a ban on its publication and implementation of its recommendations.
Justice Bernard Sakora issued this ban while granting leave for a judicial review, following an urgent application by former solicitor-general Zachery Gelu and lawyer Paul Paraka. Justice Sakora made the decisions in Alotau, when he was on circuit there.
Appearing for the state before Justice Mark Sevua on Monday, Scholastica Nepel of Jerowai Lawyers, argued that the interim injunction stopping further dealings of the final inquiry report was “an encroachment” by the judiciary into the prerogative role of the executive arm of the government who had instituted the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department.
Nepel said the Prime Minister presented the report in the national Parliament on March 4, 2010, and this was to be followed by the implementation of the recommendations of the office of the Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc.
She said there were irregularities in the orders granted by Justice Sakora on March 6, and the orders should be set aside.
Nepel submitted that when the leave application seeking the interim injunction was made and granted in Alotau, there was “no returnable date’ set in the orders that were granted which is a National Court rules requirement when dealing with interim injunctive orders against another party.
In response, lawyers for Paraka and Gelu submitted that there was an urgency which prompted their client to seek the interim injunction. They said there was an intention to publish excerpts of the final report in a Sunday newspaper, which prompted them to take urgent action on March 6 before Justice Sakora in Alotau.