It was late at night, and the Australian media pack were tired after a long day of following Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
One sleepy reporter asked O’Neil a delicate question.
‘It’s been alleged by one of your former colleagues – so that’s Sam Koim – that Australia is the Cayman Islands of the Pacific in the way that it provides unlimited opportunities for corrupt officials to invest here. The ABS – Australian Bureau of Statistics – says Australia has received $5 billion in investment in five years from PNG nationals, a lot of which I gather goes into the Cairns property market. Are you pressing this in your visit here to Australia? And if so, what measures would you like the Australian Government to take?’
Peter O’Neill responded to his sleepy colleague, offering to tell a bedtime story on corruption in PNG. It was a more fanciful tale then they had ever been told before. It went like this:
‘On the issue about Papua New Guinean funds being invested in Australia, let me put it on the record very clearly that there are many successful Papua New Guineans who, in their own right, are able to afford to invest in Australia and of course in the property market in Cairns and elsewhere. There is no doubt that the transfer of funds between the two countries have got vigorous scrutiny. If you wish to even pay bills for you schools, kids who are going to Australia, you have to go through the financial regulations bodies which clear those funds to come.
So when you talk about corrupt funds coming to Australia there must be substantive evidence. Unfortunately, everybody jumps on the bandwagon of emotional statements without facts to support it. Now, there is no doubt the Australian Government has got access to the records about who owns properties in Australia and how it was applied, and there’s nothing stopping the Australian Government, there is no requests from the Papua New Guinea Government into whether they should investigate further on how some of these properties were acquired. So we encourage Australian Government to do so.
In Papua New Guinea, of course, it’s an easy issue about corruption and politics. But when you look at the history of the country, since 1964 when self government was introduced in Papua New Guinea to date, do a survey of the politicians who are in office and who have left office and find out how many of them are well off because of corrupt funds that they’ve acquired. Over 90 per cent of them today who have either left office or in office are struggling to even pay their own bills. So this notion that there is great wealth being acquired by Papua New Guinean politicians is ridiculous.
We are doing all we can in Papua New Guinea now to introduce legislations like ICAC, which will be of the final reading in this March session, and we will receive overwhelming support from Parliament where the sorts of funds received by individuals in their wealth will be a subject of investigation, and of course they will be held accountable for them. They have to explain whether they had a rich grandmother who passed on a lot of wealth to them. So those are legislations that we are now putting in place to address this issue.
Even today, when you put more than 10,000 kina, transferring it out of Papua New Guinea, you must declare them to the financial intelligence unit who will give the necessary approval for you to do so. It must the banks are working very closely, all the big banks who work in Papua New Guinea like Westpac, ANZ, BSP, all enforcing these regulations and rules to the strictest terms possible. So there is no uncertainty in that.’
By the time O’Neill had finished his tall tale, the press core was fast asleep.
Download the full transcript of Peter O’Neill speaking at the Press Club
Here we go again. It appears there is a two-tier justice system, one for the poor and one for the rich.
Earlier this month the National Court sentenced a Bank of South Pacific employee David Poholi to five years imprisonment with hard labour, for misappropriating K688,000 from his employer, BSP.
Just deserts perhaps.
But when the elite businessman Jimmy Maladina appeared before the same court and the same judge, for misappropriating K2.65 million from the National Provident Fund, he was let free with a suspended sentence.
How can this be you ask?
Well the Courts have built into sentencing procedure a mechanism, that in effect, lets the rich and powerful off with minimal punishment. A close look at sentencing decisions for misappropriation reveal that the courts are prepared to suspend sentences for offenders, when they agree to return the stolen money to the victim.
In reality, what this means is, a poor worker who wrongly steals money to feed their children, goes to prison because they can’t return the illicit proceeds. On the other hand, rich politicians and businessmen, simply have to keep a slush fund handy – or a few wealthy friends – in the unlikely event they are ever convicted.
If that unlikely event does ever occur, the wealthy criminal simply draws from their slush fund to avoid prison, or they turn to a few cashed up pals, who loan them the money.
It is time that Judges look very carefully at sentencing procedure, and ask what message are they sending to elite criminals and the people of Papua New Guinea.
Today I watched in absolute disgust as MPs giggled and laughed as Minister for Health made light humor at the fact that the GOVERNMENT had slashed funding for Church run health facilities to the tune of K50m.
– I had asked an explanation about the slash to our health services by the Government and could the Minister explain exactly how much and what programs exactly
Minister Malabag confirmed that the Government had cut K50m BUT only to the Churches run programs and ONLY the wages component.
BUT THE MOST REMOTE AREAS IN PNG WHERE MOST OF OUR PEOPLE LIVE ARE ONLY SERVICED BY CHURCHES! WHY DID THE GOVERNMENT LIE AND DECLARE THAT NO CUTS WOULD BE MADE TO EDUCATION AND HEALTH LAST YEAR AND THEN DO THIS!
– Furthermore I asked when the Transit Medical Storage Facility in Oro was to be completed since work had commenced in 2013 had not been finished. This was to be built to ensure timely delivery of drugs to our aidposts and hospitals and thus ensure we are best equipped to save lives. But the contract was never completed and yet K600,000 was paid to a contractor! Now this contract was dubiously given to a company namely Gini Construction owned by a male nurse that had ZERO experience and knowledge in building such infrastructure and had been illegally on the the Health payroll for 5 years until I took him off after I found out earlier this year. The work is substandard and remains unfinished! Drugs are not delivered in a timely manner and patients have to travel hours to Popondetta to get treatment.
The Minister acknowledged that the contractor was paid and the job incomplete! The Minister confirmed that CSTB awarded the contract! No surprise! The Minister confirmed the that the NDOH was now looking for money to complete the contract!
WHY WAS THIS CONTRACTOR ILLEGALLY ENGAGED!? WHY WAS HE PAID WHEN HE HAD NOT COMPLETED HIS JOB!? WHY HASNT HE BEEN ARRESTED AND LOCKED UP INCLUDING THE CSTB AND NDOH OFFICIAL WHOSE CORRUPT ACTIONS HAVE RESULTED IN MEDICAL RISKS AND POSSIBLE DEATHS OF OUR PEOPLE??! I WILL FIND OUT THESE PUBLIC SERVANTS NAMES AND HAVE THEM ARRESTED!
I also asked if the NDOH had built a lab to verify drugs imported and distributed by the contraversial Malaysian Company Borneo Pacific as the Government had promised to do since the company they were importing from China Pharmaceutical was cited for peddling counterfeit drugs by the WHO and NDOH had intentionally removed ISO Certification as a criteria to allow them to select Bormeo Pharmaceutical at an extra K20m more.
Minister admitted they had failed since to build such a lab.
Most MPs in Government giggled and laughed as the Health Minister joked about the matter in parliament during a supplementary question by Member for Lae Loujaya Kouja.
Our peoples health is no laughing matter. Especially when many in remote areas are struggling to come into towns to find help and wait hours and even days before treatment. Many vulnerable people such as babies and elderly are dying from treatable medical matters.
SAVING LIVES IS ANY GOVERNMENTS FUNDAMENTAL ROLE ….BUT THIS GOVERNMENT FINDS THE DEPLORABLE HEALTH SITUATION IN OUR COUNTRY AND OUR PEOPLES MISERY A LAUGHING MATTER…
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 now a massive 1001 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 almost three years O’Neill has REPEATEDLY promised 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 supposedly cancelling 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 PM’s former Chief Secretary has also admitted the leases are a scam:
“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”.
So, despite all the promises from the Prime Minister, no action has been taken to cancel the leases, landowners are receiving no support from the government in their battles and against the land grabbing and WE ARE STILL WAITING for the logging to be stopped.
For 1001 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.
A Malaysian owned group of companies is destroying a large number of smallholder cocoa blocks and forcibly evicting families using armed police on the Gazelle peninsula in East New Britain, says a local observer.
Tzen Niugini, Tzen Plantations and East New Britain Palm Oil are a group of companies controlled by Chinese Malaysians Ronnie Hai Liang Lim and Lea Ping Ong. The companies are all involved in the Kairak Oil Palm project.
The oil palm area covers customary land, State land, previously part of the Keravat forest area, and Land Settlement Scheme blocks. Although some customary landowners are said to support the new project it is believed at least two of five local groups have not given their informed consent.
Many of the cocoa block holders who have been forcibly evicted, have been receiving grants from the World Bank under its $50 million Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP) which was designed to revive the cocoa industry.
It is alleged the Malaysian companies have no land titles and no environmental permit, but authorities are ignoring their actions.
Ping and Liang are also the owners of the Malaysian registered company Tzen Plantations Sdn. Bhd.
According to the SABL Commission of Inquiry there is a 23,073 ha lease over Portions 908C and 909C issued by the Department of Lands to ‘Kairak Development Corporation’ for an oil palm plantation.