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Court leniency on rogue officer fuels the fire of police brutality

January 31, 2016 Leave a comment

police guns

Anyone on the street knows, when you see an RPNGC officer, you smile and submit. With luck they won’t give you trouble. If they do, who knows where it will end up. For one unlucky girl it concluded with a scene of humiliation, where she was forced to eat a condom.

But what are they Courts doing to crack down on police violence? Very little.

A sad example of this is the recent case of State v Akia [2015].

The victim had been taken into custody by police, after they were accused of sorcery.

The National Court outlines the brutal, unprovoked attack the victim then endured, at the hands of  a 37 year old police officer:

‘At the Wet Crossing at Hohorita, the accused [RPNGC officer] stopped the vehicle and ordered the victim to get out of the vehicle and go and have his bath in the river. The victim obeyed, alighted and went into the river and had his bath as ordered. The accused then got an A2 assault Rifle, aimed it at the victim and shot him on his right foot causing him bodily harm. He then ordered the victim to get back into the vehicle and they continued on to the Popondetta Police Station where they placed him in the cells with his injuries. The victim later discovered by another officer who then took him to the hospital for treatment’.

The disgraced police officer, petitioned the National Court for leniency, arguing he had paid K10,000 in compensation to the victim, and a further K5,000 in foodstuffs.

Incredibly both the defence and prosecution agreed a three year suspended sentence would be appropriate. A suspended sentence in effect means while a custodial sentence is given, providing the offender commits to good behaviour, they never have to actually spend any time in prison.

In his decision, the Judge rightly drew attention to certain aggravating factors that considerably added to the seriousness of the case. Namely, the police officer was entrusted to uphold the law. However, rather than upholding the law, he employed his legal powers to commit a brutal crime against a vulnerable victim, who had done nothing wrong. This act was part of a broader wave of police criminality that is now an urgent public policy issue.

Toliken AJ observes in his sentencing decision:

‘Police brutality of late has been such that citizens are now wondering out loudly who will protect them from law breakers when certain members of the police force are increasingly becoming lawless themselves. It is as if the law enforcers have given up trying to uphold the law so much so that they now feel that if you can’t beat the criminals, join them and become criminals too.’

As a result, the learned Judge states:

‘This case, therefore, calls for a strong punitive sentence which will and must deter the prisoner and like- minded colleagues of his’.

Members of the public might conclude the maximum penalty was opted for, 7 years imprisonment. Yet it wasn’t. The offender was released on a suspended sentence. For punishment, the police officer was merely ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Its hard to see how this is either commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, or indeed a deterrent decision. Remember, we are talking here of a police officer that shot an unarmed civilian, who had done nothing wrong, and fully complied with all orders.

Sadly it appears when the powerful break the law, the Court goes out of its way to deliver leniency, leaving prisons stocked with the poor and powerless, who have neither the money or the prestige to escape punishment.

A two tier legal system is emerging, that will only serve to erode public confidence in the administration of justice.

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Malaysian company signs agreement to log illegal SABL

January 28, 2016 2 comments
An agar plantation has saved See Goh's Compugates from bankruptcy

An agarwood plantation has saved See Goh’s Compugates after years of financial losses but is the Chief Executive aware the Marienberg SABL is a fraud?

A Malaysian electronics distribution company claims it has signed an agreement to log the 26,000 hectare Marienberg SABL in East Sepik Province [see story below]

The SABL was originally issued to another Malaysian owned company, Brilliant Investments in 2007.

The SABL Commission of Inquiry recommended the SABL be revoked as it was unlawfully issued without the consent of landowners and without following many of the necessary steps mandated in the Lands Act.

The CoI  found there was a “serious lack of landowner involvement” in the issuing of the SABL and no “majority consent on the engagement and authorization of Brilliant Investments to be named as the grantee of the SABL”.

Brilliant was issued with a Forest Clearance Authority (11-02) in June 2009 despite failing to lodge many of the required documents with the PNG Forest Authority.

The CoI noted that although Brilliant had logged large areas of forest it had not taken any genuine steps to establish a promised cocoa plantation. It now seems the company has fallen out with a group of local landowners and their company Marienberg Hills Investment Limited.

According to Compugates, it has signed a logging agreement with MHIL – although it remains unclear how much forest remains to be logged.

Compugates may venture into logging in PNG
The Star
Compugates Holdings Bhd has been invited by Papua New Guinea-based Marrienberg Hills Resources Development Ltd (MHRD) to log 26,000ha of its forested land.
The consumer electronic product distributor told Bursa Malaysia that its unit Compugates Perak Sdn Bhd (CPSB), which cultivates and sells agricultural products, had entered into a memorandum of understanding with MHRD, which would maintain its exclusive invitation to CPSB for six months.
The logging and marketing contract will be for a term of five years and will be renewable.
Compugates, which posted a net loss of RM5.6mil for the first nine months of last year, said the financial effects of the MoU could only be determined on the finalisation and execution of a binding commercial enterprise with MHRD.
Compugates shares closed unchanged at 4.5 sen on Tuesday, with 30.89 million shares changing hands.
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O’Neill’s illegal logging: 945 days and counting…

January 25, 2016 1 comment

count

There is still no sign of any action to undo the huge SABL land grab, revoke the unlawful leases or stop the illegal logging.

It is 945 days, since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be cancelled.

On June 24, 2013 O’Neill was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.

For more than two years O’Neill has REPEATEDLY told us the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

In September 2013 O’Neill said in Parliament:

“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

In June 2014, announcing an NEC decision supposedlycancelling the leases, O’Neill said

“We are taking these steps to reclaim our customary land illegally lost to foreigners with the help of corrupt public servants and leaders”

“As a responsible government we want to ensure that all citizens have access to the lands of their ancestors. We will not allow our land to be lost to unscrupulous people out to con our people” 

The Chief Secretary has also said:

“It is widely known that vast amounts of pristine forest have been logged to enrich a corrupt few people, while landowners have unknowingly lost their most valuable asset – their land”.

But, still no action has been taken to cancel the leases or stop the logging. Indeed, Forest Minister Douglas Tomuriesa, has declared the logging companies are effectively above the law, He says the SABL logging is legal and he will not be taking action to stop it.

So, despite all the promises, the fact is landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles and against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 945 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and he has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

Peter O’Neill, Jubilee University and Thaddeus Kambanei: A match made in heaven

January 22, 2016 3 comments

O'Neill kambaneiSometimes  life delivers up moments of sublime parody, moments so incredible you have to laugh. No more exquisite moment has been served up in recent years – yes years – than when Prime Minister O’Neill received an award recognising his financial management skills from Chancellor of Jubilee University (sometimes also spelt Jubillee), Thaddeus Kambanei. The award has been issued by Australia’s Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA), under the leadership of Emeritus Professor Janek Ratnatunga, who has found fine friends among Jubilee, its Chancellor and the PM.

Dr Kambanei claims, ‘I put together a very detailed nomination and forwarded it to the nomination committee at ICMA-Australia. The nomination then went through a rigorous process before he was accepted for the award’.

Should we have any reason to doubt Dr Kambanei? According to the Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance, yes. During his infamous period as Finance Secretary between 2001-2006, the Inquiry found:

Mr. Kambanei tried his level best to disassociate himself from many questionable and fraudulent payments processed during his tenure in office. He stated that Deputy Secretary Gabriel Yer would have been responsible for these claims. The Commission finds Mr. Kambanei’s evidence to be misleading, evasive and not credible. At all material times he was responsible for directing his staff to process settlement of claims against State. The Commission further noted that he pooled funds improperly and illegally to settle these claims and it was evident that he was in control and knew exactly what he was doing contrary to the PFMA and the Appropriation Act … Mr. Thaddeus Kambanei abused his position as Secretary for Finance to access funds illegally from monies legally set aside for other purposes.

And what of this fine higher education institution Dr Kambanei leads? It was born under rather interesting conditions so says the Commission!

The Commission of Inquiry found that Dr William Taggis, Director of the Office of Higher Education had ‘advised the National Executive Council that the submission done by Mr. Kambanei who was also Finance Secretary at the time was not a convincing one because of factual errors and weaknesses in other areas including the Finances of the University and how exactly it would source funds to run its programmes’. The commission notes, while ‘no Financial commitment was ever made by the Government’, nevertheless, ‘a total of three (3) payments aggregating K3 million were made [to Jubilee University] from three (3) different Trust Accounts that were never intended for AOG Jubilee University, thus breaching Sections 14 and 17 (a) of the PFMA Act’. It was concluded, ‘Mr. Thadeus Kambanei abused his position as Secretary for Finance to access funds illegally from monies legally set aside for other purposes’.

Another K4 million was pumped into Jubilee University from the 2015 budget, but needless to say that would not have effected the integrity of Dr Kambanei’s vetting process.

After all, Peter O’Neill’s credentials as a financial manager speak for themselves. The Commission of Inquiry into the NPF scandal, gave a glowing review of Mr O’Neill’s creative accounting abilities. ‘Mr O’Neill had definitely benefitted from the proceeds of the NPF Tower Fraud’, this Commission concluded. Special ‘praise’ was reserved for the efforts that O’Neill and his partners had allegedly gone to, to ‘hide’ their role from the Commission through ‘fabricating’ evidence.

Mr O’Neill’s economic credentials have again been brought into focus, through such achievements as the US$1.2 billion loan which was taken out from USB Bank, allegedly without necessary approvals, in addition to another alleged US$24 million payment to Paraka Lawyers for unauthorized invoices.

All of which takes place as O’Neill’s gamble on permanent blue skies in the resource sector has proven a catastrophic blunder. Each day new stories emerge of PNG’s slip into economic crisis.

So perhaps there is some poetry here, the most infamous Finance Secretary in PNG’s history, who now heads a University built on a foundation of illegal payments, felt it proper to recognise Peter O’Neill’s economic credentials.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 938 days and counting…

January 18, 2016 Leave a comment

count

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty

px-logo land grabbing

billboard poster - give land back to landowners

Government in disarray over SABL land grab?

January 15, 2016 1 comment

headless chickens

The government appears to be in disarray over the SABL land grab with everyone from the Prime Minister down singing from a different song book. But are the PM and his Ministers just running around like a bunch of headless chickens or is the apparent confusion really a smokescreen to hide the fact they have no intention of cancelling the unlawful leases or stopping the logging?

This week the Prime Minister said the delay in canceling the SABL leases is down to the Department of Lands ‘dragging its feet” and leaseholders taking legal actions [Post Courier, 13 January].

This directly contradicts his Chief Secretary who late last year said the delay was due to the need for legislation as no powers exist to cancel the leases.

But Lands Minister Benny Allen is telling yet a different story. He says his Department has no intention of canceling the SABLs and is instead preparing a submission to NEC proposing the leases be converted to registered land. [Loop PNG 13 January – warning, ignore the silly headline!]

Meanwhile Forest Minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. According to him it doesn’t matter if the SABLs are valid or not he is not going to stop the logging companies from carrying on their forest clearances.

With more than 5 million cubic metres of logs, worth more than $500 million having already been exported from the SABL areas it is clear the Prime Minister was right when he told Parliament the foreign owned logging companies have conned landowners and are chopping down their forests and taking the proceeds offshore [September 2013]

Unfortunately the PM seems to have failed to convince his Forest Minister – or is he too happy to see the logging continue while he protests his own innocence in the whole affair?

What can we conclude from all this?

Clearly someone is paying someone to make sure nothing happens!

And either the PM has completely no control over his government or he and his Ministers are happy to be seen running around like headless chooks in order to try and cover up their complicity in the illegal logging and land grabbing.

O’Neill’s illegal logging: 931 days and counting…

January 11, 2016 Leave a comment

count

It is now 2016, but there is still no sign of any action to undo the huge SABL land grab, revoke the unlawful leases or stop the illegal logging.

It is 931 days, since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be cancelled.

On June 24, 2013 O’Neill was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.

For more than two years O’Neill has REPEATEDLY told us the leases will be canceled and illegal logging stopped.

In September 2013 O’Neill said in Parliament:

“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”

In June 2014, announcing an NEC decision supposedlycancelling the leases, O’Neill said

“We are taking these steps to reclaim our customary land illegally lost to foreigners with the help of corrupt public servants and leaders”

“As a responsible government we want to ensure that all citizens have access to the lands of their ancestors. We will not allow our land to be lost to unscrupulous people out to con our people” 

The Chief Secretary has also said:

“It is widely known that vast amounts of pristine forest have been logged to enrich a corrupt few people, while landowners have unknowingly lost their most valuable asset – their land”.

But, still no action has been taken to cancel the leases or stop the logging. Indeed, Forest Minister Douglas Tomuriesa, has declared the logging companies are effectively above the law, He says the SABL logging is legal and he will not be taking action to stop it.

So, despite all the promises, the fact is landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles and against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.

For 931 days O’Neill has failed to ensure the SABL leases are revoked and he has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.

Peter O'Neill: Theft of forest resources: Guilty