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Archive for June, 2017

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.

Judge recommends MP’s prosecution for role in fraud

June 25, 2017 1 comment

MP Joseph Lelang is the latest to be implicated in the scandals surrounding Eremas Wartoto

MP Joseph Lelang has already been the subject of a Leadership Tribunal, where he pleaded guilty to failing to file his annual statements. He has also been recommended for prosecution by the Task Force Sweep, now the National Court is recommending his prosecution…

Source: Radio New Zealand

A Papua New Guinea court has recommended the prosecution of an MP for his role in facilitating a multi-million dollar fraud.

Eremas Wartoto was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Friday. The sentencing judge has recommended a MP, Joseph Lelang, also be prosecuted for his role in the fraud. 

On Friday, the National Court sentenced a businessman, Eremas Wartoto, to 10 years in prison after he misused US$2 million of public funds paid to his transport company for the renovation of a high school.

In his judgement, Justice George Manuhu said the then-public servant and now MP, Joseph Lelang, and another public servant Brian Kimmins, lied to the court in giving evidence against Wartoto.

Justice Manuhu found the pair had a role in facilitating the payments to Wartoto’s company for which he said they should be prosecuted.

If Mr Lelang is prosecuted, he would not be the first MP ensnared by Eremas Wartoto’s business dealings.

Wartoto rose to prominence in 2013 when a former planning minister, Paul Tiensten, was jailed for misappropriating US$3.6 million to Wartoto and his other company, Travel Air.

New governance watchdog PNGi exposes O’Neill’s business networks

June 22, 2017 1 comment

Masthead today from the PNGi Central website. Image: PMW

Source: Pacific Media Watch

PNGi is set to revolutionise governance in Papua New Guinea by cracking open the secrets of the rich and powerful and exposing them to public view.

Using the latest digital technologies, PNGi aims to investigate, analyse and expose the often hidden and opaque systems standing behind the abuse of political and economic power.

Its two flagship resources are the PNGi Portal and PNGi Central websites. They have been established and are sustained by an informal network of academics, activists and journalists involved in researching and writing about current issues in Papua New Guinea.

“In accordance with a robust risk assessment process, in some instances, contributors are protected by publishing their work anonymously,” said PNGi in a response to a query from Pacific Media Watch.

“However, all published material has been peer-reviewed, and is rigorously referenced, using freely accessible documentary sources. This allows anyone to verify each factual claim made.”

The PNGi Portal is an on-line database of governance reporting. It collates documents produced by institutions like the Ombudsman Commission, Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee and makes them available to the public through a powerful search engine.

The public can now search and cross-match reports, to uncover serial misconduct by target individuals or entities.

The database is a major addition to due diligence in Papua New Guinea. It will add value to the work of journalists, researchers, students, public officials, oversight agencies, citizens and responsible corporate actors.

Sitting alongside the portal is PNGi Central, a reporting platform that will use a range of formats to communicate the results of research into:

  • the discrete networks that lie at the heart of the country’s economic and political power, and which are mired in allegations of improper and illicit conduct;
  • the institutional and legal mechanisms the networks use;
  • common transaction patterns; and
  • the broader policy and legal factors that are permissive of improper or illegal activities.

PNGi Central represents the most sophisticated reporting effort yet in the region, to speak truth to power through rigorous research, accessible to the public through digestible mechanisms ranging from feature investigations, through to podcasts, power profiles and court reports.

O’Neill’s business network
To launch the new websites and illustrate PNGi’s research capabilities, PNGi Central has published a report into the business network of current Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Titled The Midas Touch, this investigative feature, to be published in three-parts, will reveal hundreds of millions of kina in assets owned by the Prime Minister, and a business empire that has its origins in alleged frauds condemned in two Commissions of Inquiry.

Part I, published today, unlocks for the first time the evidence of the Prime Minister himself, as published in Commission transcripts, and unravels a complicated series of corporate takeovers and hidden deals that have made Peter O’Neill a very wealthy man.

Parts II and II will follow over the coming weeks.

Once complete, The Midas Touch will expose how the Prime Minister’s corporate empire has benefited from government decision making, multi-lateral loans, and even foreign government spending.

PNGi contributions aim is to stimulate debate and encourage the development of new laws and policies that will be effective in the fight to control market abuse, corruption and other improper dealings, and, ultimately, to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

The Papua New Guinea 2017 general election is June 24 until July 8.

Corrosive culture of corruption

June 20, 2017 1 comment

Source: Kessy Sawang, The Papua New Guinea Woman 

Sir Mekere, our former Prime Minister, likened corruption to cancer, presumably the malignant type. Sam Koim, former head of Task Force Sweep, described the rising tide of corruption using the boiling frog tale – descriptive but a parable nonetheless as it is scientifically incorrect. But if we focus on the point being made, which is that unless we are alert to the slow and gradual threat of diminishing governance and the growing scale of corruption these can go unnoticed and become accepted as the new norm threatening democracy and our country’s development.

These concerns seem apt when we consider the performance of the last term of Parliament and the Executive Government. The O’Neill Government swept into power on a wave of optimism and promises that it would tackle the problem of corruption and restore good governance. The Alotau Accord captured the commitments made by O’Neill’s Government to the people of PNG of the initiatives it would undertake. There were pledges to “continuing the fight against Corruption by proper funding and institutionalization of the inter-agency committee against corruption in particularly Task Force Sweep. Further, the Government will introduce the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) Bill.” O’Neill has failed to table the ICAC law in Parliament.

There were also promises to “review the powers, roles and responsibilities of the Ombudsman Commission” as well as to abolish the Department of Personnel Management and to restructure the “Public Service Commission … [by giving it] the Constitutional powers and responsibility to oversee the efficiency of the public service.” There was also to be a shakeup of sub-national governance with “the transfers of powers of appointment of Provincial Administrators to the Provincial Executive Council“. All these have not been done and indeed the O’Neill Government has gone in the reverse direction.

Corruption is the abuse of public office for private gain. Corruption should not only be thought of willful abuse but also if one is aware of it and does nothing to bring it to the attention of appropriate authorities then there is a crime of complicity. It has been a sad trait that the more stakeholders like the private sector especially has not done more to play a more active and stronger coordinated collective role in demanding better public governance.

There are many forms of governance and this article is focused on public governance, which relates to how power and authority is distributed amongst different agents, the processes and mechanisms through which these are exercised and how the rules are enforced. Good governance is an imprecisely defined term but can be thought of as being secured when good development outcomes are achieved with adherence to key principles of voice, accountability, fairness, legitimacy, participation and rule of law. Rule of law is the principle that all institutions and people are subject to and accountable to law, which must be fairly and equally applied or enforced.

The manner in which O’Neill first took the office of the Prime Minister was not legitimate – one of the three arms of Government, the judiciary declared this. This offence should not be lightly forgotten. It is ironic to see that the chief perpetrators of this siege on Executive Government in the last Parliament term are now rattling their sabers on opposing sides in the National General Elections.

By almost any measure there is fault with all governments. It isn’t an easy task pleasing all stakeholders and with this in mind we can restrict an assessment of the O’Neill Government’s governance performance in relation to promises it made itself and to conformance with our laws.

There are three key messages. The first is that the O’Neill Government has not fulfilled the promises it made in relation to good governance. The second takeaway message is that there has been a dismal performance in relation to compliance with rule of law and with legislation around financial governance. The third broad outcome is that there has been a profound erosion in the quality of governance and performance of our public institutions.

Parliamentarians are elected representatives of people but they are not beyond reproach nor are they above the law. Indeed as public officials they are subject to greater scrutiny and accountability, this is embedded in our Constitution through the Leadership Code. The application of the rule of law does not recognize your position only the person.

In the financial governance space, we have seen public debt ratio being willfully breached and then O’Neill and his party members boasting they will borrow more and indebt our nation more. Such taunts are based on fanciful claims it will be for infrastructure spending but we see suggestive evidence that the cost of road infrastructure is excessive, that the scale of infrastructure itself is not in the national interest and the net returns from the investments may be less than other infrastructure investment opportunities outside the capital city. Spending vast sums of money on contracts that raise doubts is hardly an euphemism for inclusive development and good governance.

We have seen the O’Neill Government claim that it has managed public finances well and made necessary adjustments to the budget in years of stress. However, these adjustments have been hidden both from the Parliament and our people until the end of the financial year. The release of regular reports on public finances have been delayed or avoided completely, despite requirements in our laws for this.

For instance, the practice of issuing quarterly reports on warrants, effectively the quarterly cashflow, has ceased. A pillar of good governance is transparency and O’Neill and his government has steadfastly refused to provide information. Our people have the right to demand accountability from our Government and from our public officials. We have a right to understand how scarce public funds are been allocated and spent. We have a right to know if these are extracting the maximum value for our people from these limited funds. We have right to demand accountability in relation to procurement and the award of contracts.

We have seen continued erosion in the quality of our public institutions. Our oversighting agencies continue to be deprived of required funding or legally disempowered and political patronage perhaps influences agency heads to flout their agency’s independence. We have seen the O’Neill Government make legislative changes that strip the Public Service Commission of its powers to ensure a merit-based appointment process and to transfer their powers  to a committee of Ministers. This politicization of the civil service is already working to erode the quality of our government institutions. For instance, the Bank of PNG an independent institution by law has breached its mandate by expanding the money supply by funding O’Neill’s budget by K1.8 billion in 2016 alone. Without this funding the Government would have stopped functioning if it had failed to adjust the budget. The Bank of PNG shockingly paid a dividend of K102 million in 2014 when it was technically bankrupt and this was done at the direction of O’Neill and his cabinet of ministers.

So what are pathways forward to combat the scourge of corruption? Let me share my good governance platform, which is summarized in the figure at the top of the page. The new Parliament should act decisively to institute various measures to rebuild our public institutions that can guard against any abuse of executive power. We need public institutions which are a bastion for integrity, professionalism and high standards of ethics so that fundamentally the country can rely on institutions to independently act to ensure good governance prevails. The powers of the Public Service Commission must be restored. We need laws to protect whistler-blowers that step forward to expose corruption and for freedom of information to be enacted. The Police Force must be free from political influence and the Ombudsman Commission must be supported with adequate funding and additional legal powers as required. The ICAC should be established or its proposed functions and powers should be embedded within an existing body like the Ombudsman Commission, if this is sensible.

It is time to consider an Unexplained Wealth Legislation where people that have wealth that is at variance with their declared income are required to justify it or face confiscation of those assets and prosecution under other laws. The new Government can demonstrate its commitment by allowing a phased introduction where this is applied to public leadership positions first.

Corporate governance of our public bodies needs to be strengthened. Requirements for directors of boards to satisfy strong fit and proper test must be satisfied and I want the removal of all legal provisions that allow Cabinet to be shadow directors. Statutory agency heads should be accountable solely to Boards of Directors, which should have the power to hire and fire them.

Public procurement needs to be reformed. The removal of certain public officials, like the State Solicitor, from the tenders board is necessary to avoid conflict of interests. I advocate that a probity auditor for procurement be established. This can be housed within another agency such as ICAC or as a new independent office. This function will ensure that disputes are promptly heard but also investigate any allegations of malfeasance or to simply verify costings are reasonable and robust.

I believe that fiscal transparency must be strengthened by publishing key details of major project including estimated rates of return, estimated and final project costs, contractor and its gender impact. We have seen too many reports of excessive legal costs and it is time to ensure that there is legal compliance of the engagement of lawyers for public purposes through a procurement process that results in panel selection of firms and ensures value for money.

The publicity of Parliamentarians on signage of public works or assets purchased with public funds and the deception that Parliamentarians alone deliver must stop. It is time for anti-signage provisions in law. Finally, Parliament, an important arm of government must be strengthened to provide oversight of executive government.

The challenge of curtailing the corrosive culture of corruption and instilling good governance is the ultimate leadership challenge. In the Alotau Accord the O’Neill Government promised that it would “be remembered … as the most decisive, action packed, transparent and accountable Government the nation has ever had”. Sadly, it seems the O’Neill Government will be remembered instead for the slow but devastating erosion in good governance and poor development outcomes.

Rimbunan Hijau has Catholic lay missionary deported

June 13, 2017 3 comments

Rimbunan Hijau has dictated the deportation of a Catholic lay missionary, Mr Doug Tennent, who was trying to assist the people of Pomio negotiate a fair deal over the illegal appropriation of their land by RH.

Tennent, a New Zealander and former law lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea, has become the latest victim of the SABL land grab.

Below is the full Letter from Archbishop Francesco Panfilo sdb concerning the deportation, a letter that ends with a question:

Does this mean that the level of corruption reached by the Government is beyond remedy?

10 June, 2017

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

On August 15, 2015 I issued Pastoral Letter 7 on how to respond in very practical ways to the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis “Laudato Sì” on the “Care of our Common Home”.

I wrote: “Convinced as we are that ‘the earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters’ (EG 183), we need to ask ourselves: how can we as Church, in very practical ways, care for our common home and be a Church that is poor and for the poor? … The Archdiocese of Rabaul is committed to the following:

  1. Disposing of the land, especially of large plantations;
  2. Starting a housing project for low income earners;
  3. Helping achieve a broad consensus in the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project in West Pomio”.

We committed ourselves to these very challenging goals not only in response to the call of Pope Francis and in fidelity to the Social Teaching of the Church, but also because the Archdiocese could avail itself of the services of Mr. Douglas Tennent, a lay missionary from New Zealand and a former lecturer of law at the UPNG.

As mentioned, Mr. Tennent came to the Archdiocese as a lay missionary with an Entry Permit “Special Exemption/Religious Worker”. In the Archdiocese he serves as the Administrator.

The Archdiocese provides him with board and lodging and with an allowance. He is not paid an expatriate salary. Those who live at Vunapope know very well that he works 15 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to solve the many land issues that we still have.

On Friday, 9 June, in the afternoon two officers from the Office of the Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority came from Port Moresby to serve Mr. Tennent with the “Notice of Cancellation of Entry Permit” and “Direction as to Custody and Removal Order”.

He was told that he no longer held a valid entry permit or visa to remain in the country lawfully and that he had to leave the country immediately. The document presented to him stated: “Should you fail to comply with this instruction you are subject to be detained and removed involuntarily”.

There was no previous notice, no chance to appeal since the notice was served on Friday afternoon and he would have to leave on Sunday, 11 June.

What crime did Mr. Tennent commit? The document served to him says: “The cancellation of your entry permit by the Minister is due to the blatant abuse of the conditions of your Special Exemption/Religious Worker visa by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.

As mentioned, Mr. Tennent is a lay missionary and is not paid an expatriate salary.

In regards to our commitments to “Disposing of the land, especially of large plantations” and of “Starting a housing project for low income earners”, Mr. Tennent is tasked to carry out the decisions of the Finance Council and of the Land Board of the Archdiocese. He does not act on his own.

As for the involvement of the Archdiocese in “Helping achieve a broad consensus in the Sigite Mukus Palm Oil Project in West Pomio”, Mr. Tennent provides legal advice to the Archbishop, who was asked by the people of West Pomio to speak up for them. This, the undersigned as done and is very grateful to Mr. Tennent for his advice and concrete help.

It should be very clear that in regard to land matters and in the advocacy for the people of West Pomio, the ultimate responsible is the Archbishop. Consequently, if anybody needs to be deported for what we are doing, then it is the Archbishop.

It is sad to realize that people who are hard working, dedicated and committed to serve the people of Papua New Guinea are treated in such a way.

Does this mean that the level of corruption reached by the Government is beyond remedy?

I would like to believe that there are still decent people in Government who are trying their best, just as we are trying our best to serve and care for those who do not have voice.

Let us pray that the upcoming National Elections may give us leaders who are committed to the achievement of a just and peaceful society.

+ Francesco Panfilo, SDB Archbishop of Rabaul

cc.

Right Hon. P.M. Peter O’Neil
Hon. Leo Dion, DPM
Hon. Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration

Categories: Uncategorized

UNDP head denies endorsing Paga Hill Development Company evictions

June 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Settlers moved from the foreshore at Paga Hill to the inland site of Gerehu, where they live in appalling conditions.  Photo: Aid Watch

Port Moresby settlers evicted to make way for Australian-backed development ‘abandoned’

Source: Heath Aston in Sydney Morning Herald

A majority of settlers evicted from a headland shanty town in Port Moresby to make way for a gated tourism and casino precinct backed by Australian property developers have been “simply abandoned”, with some now sleeping rough, according to human rights investigators.

Two Australian-run companies involved in moving squatters from waterfront Paga Hill and its foreshore between 2012 and 2014 dispute the numbers of people affected, but charities Aid Watch and Jubilee Australia claim 2000 of an estimated 3000 squatters were given no resettlement and in many cases no compensation, and up to 500 of those could be living on the streets of the capital.

They have also raised questions about the claimed success of resettlement programs for those relocated to make way for a gated waterfront estate that the PNG government has earmarked as a likely setting for the 2018 APEC conference of world leaders.

Australia is spending about $100 million to support the Port Moresby APEC summit, with a particular focus on security through the ongoing presence of the Australian Federal Police in PNG.

The brochure for the Paga Hill development showing the headland that has been cleared for development. Photo: Paga Hill Development Company

Former prime minister Tony Abbott said APEC would be “an important coming of age for PNG”.

Australian mining company Oil Search is building a floating reception centre to be called APEC Haus at the Paga Hill headland.

Human rights lawyer Brynn O’Brien, who is writing a report for Jubilee and Aid Watch, said Australia had a responsibility to the people of Paga Hill if it was backing the APEC meeting with public money.

“The Australian government should make a commitment not to support any event held on land associated with human rights violations until people have been resettled,” she told Fairfax Media.

Six Mile, another site were people were moved to. Photo: Aid Watch

“The majority of people were simply abandoned and a significant proportion of those, perhaps a quarter, are living under bridges, under buildings.”

The evictions, conducted with the support of armed PNG police, were raised at a recent senate estimates hearing where the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Pacific division, Daniel Sloper, said it was not Australia’s responsibility.

Another humpy at Gerehu. Photo: Aid Watch

“Certainly there have been areas and villages that have moved on. I am not denying that at all,” he said.

“My only point was that was a responsibility of the PNG government rather than a responsibility of the Australian government.”

Paga Hill was once the focal point of Australia’s World War II defence of Port Moresby. The thousands of settlers who moved there in the decades after 1945 became known as “bunker people” for their use of abandoned wartime fortifications to create makeshift homes.

The Paga Hill Development Company is run by Icelandic-Australian businessman Gudmundur “Gummi” Fridriksson, a former chief executive of Noel Pearson’s Cape York Institute.

Last year Fairfax Media revealed a legal wrangle in which one PNG’s most revered former politicians, Carol Kidu, and the Paga Hill Development Company sought to block the release of an Australian documentary, The Opposition, about local resistance to the evictions.

Ms O’Brien interviewed people who were moved from the foreshore by Townsville-based civil contractors Curtain Bros, with the support of PNG’s National Capital District Commission to an area called Gerehu on the outskirts of Port Moresby.

She found at least 600 people living in homes made from “pieces of wood, sticks, fibro, sheet metal, tarpaulins” and without power or running water.

“At Gerehu lots of the adults and children are noticeably thin even by PNG standards, they appear malnourished. At Paga Hill their main source of protein was fish caught from the sea but this site is inland with no reliable public transport” she said.

Curtain Bros did not return calls.

At another resettlement site, known as Six Mile, the original facilities built by PHDC in 2014 are badly run down. The company offered resettlement of cash compensation for people living on the hill rather than those living on the foreshore and in other areas.

Of the estimated 400 people at Six Mile, according to Ms O’Brien, most remain in temporary accommodation – tents under a steel shed roof – because they can’t afford to enter into the “land use agreements” that were offered.

A Paga Hill Development Company spokesman said:

“PHDC cannot be held responsible for the relocation site almost three years after it was formally handed over in October 2014 to UN acclaim.”

The UN’s support for the project is in dispute.

Roy Trivedy, the United Nations’ resident co-ordinator in PNG, said he attended one meeting where he was impressed with written plans for the resettlement but has not been involved in anything to do with Paga Hill since.

“I’ve asked the company to stop using my name to endorse something I haven’t seen,” he said.

Police still pursuing Sakora over Paraka link

June 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Damaru outside court: Police allege Sakora received K100,000 for issuing media ban

Court to review Justice Sakora’s case dismissal

Source: PNG Loop

The Waigani National Court will be reviewing the decision of the Committal Court on 7 June, 2016, which dismissed the case of alleged judicial corruption against Justice Sir Bernard Sakora.

SEE ALSO: Post Courier Wrong: Sakora not acquitted

Justice Leka Nablu today granted leave to an application that was moved by Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Matthew Damaru, on May 18, asking the court to review that decision of Magistrate John Kaumi.

Magistrate Kaumi dismissed the case and the information that was laid against Sir Bernard.

The Committal Court’s view was that it does not have jurisdiction to prosecute or commence a criminal proceeding against Sir Bernard, who occupies a judicial office because certain laws were not complied with.

Sir Bernard was charged with one count of judicial corruption, contrary to section 119(2)(a) of the Criminal Code Act. Under section 119(5), prosecution of an offence against a person who holds a judicial office “cannot begun except on the direction of the Public Prosecutor”.

Damaru and Inspector Joel Simatab, as police investigating officers, were aggrieved by the committal court’s decision and filed this judicial review proceeding in the National Court.

Justice Nablu was satisfied they had an arguable case because it was of public interest, raising serious issues.

Amongst issues raised was when prosecution commenced in a case, at what time the Public Prosecutor’s directions under section 119 are required and if the magistrate has the discretion to consider other applications during the committal process.

All these issues raised will be looked at by the court in the proper review trial.

Justice Nablu, in granting leave, was also satisfied Damaru and Simatab had sufficient interest as investigating officers and had exhausted all available remedies before coming to court.

She was however, concerned over the state’s lack of interest in the proceeding in the leave stage because no representative from the Solicitor General’s office assisted the court with submissions.

“It’s quite concerning that the Solicitor General does not see this as a case of public importance or interest where the state, as a named defendant, should be present in these proceedings.

“As a senior state lawyer and one of the senior court officials, the Solicitor General not only represents the interest of the state, he or she has an ethical duty to the court.

“To fail to attend at the leave application and assist the court is unacceptable and disrespectful to the court,” Justice Nablu said.

Substantively, the senior police officers are asking the court to quash the decision of the Committal Court dated 7 June 2016, and compel the district court to rehear the committal proceeding before a different magistrate.

The matter returns to court on June 13 for directions.