Sunday, July 31, 2011

Musings: vexatious litigation and Al Capone


Vexatious litigation = Legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary


DURING THE LIFE of this current Papua New Guinea parliament, a number of high profile leaders have been referred to the Leadership Tribunal by the Ombudsman Commission.

Continual legal argument has, however, delayed the courts from determining an outcome on many occasions.
Often it seems like there is a never-ending stream of legal obstacles raised by highly paid lawyers that continually delay proceedings.
In the case put to the Leadership Tribunal about prime minister Somare, the facts were eventually revealed in court and the case proven.
However, could the subsequent findings in the prime minister's case give rise to speculation that all previous legal action to defer, delay or overturn the Ombudsman's referral seemed rather pointless.
It would have been unlikely that the Ombudsman Commission would have referred the case to the public prosecutor had the facts not already been established.
Further speculation might arise that a similar situation exists with other cases of the same nature currently continually being deferred on various legal grounds.
There could be questions asked about who pays for the high priced legal expertise initiating the blocking action aimed at delaying, deferring or dismissing the referrals. Where has the funding for this legal assistance come from? Surely, the PNG taxpayers haven't funding such personal and private legal defence.
On a totally different subject, it is interesting to note in the US in the 1930's that the only way Special Investigator Elliot Ness was finally able to 'nail' big time criminal Al Capone was to charge him with tax evasion.
Capone's other criminal activities proved impossible to pin down.
Ness and his small team realised that, until they were able to remove Capone's official protection, they would never be able to gain a conviction. So they first reduced his source of income by shutting down illicit alcohol production.
With Capone's alcohol production waning, Capone had no money to pay the government people who protected him from being convicted. By removing this source of revenue, Ness decided to go after Capone's Achilles heel and Capone's empire collapsed

BSP gives K20, 000 to Goroka Show

Caption: BSP Goroka branch manager Reuben Elijah (right) presents the K20, 000 to Goroka Show organising committee chairman Gideon Samuel.-Picture courtesy of GOROKA SHOW ORGANISING COMMITTEE





Bank of South Pacific has given K20, 000 to the Goroka Show organising committee to help stage the 2011 show on September 16, 17 and 18.

The bank's Goroka branch manager Reuben Elijah presented the money to show organising committee chairman Gideon Samuel.

 Samuel said he was really grateful to the BSP management for coming on board to sponsor this year's show.

"Your sponsorship demonstrates your commitment to promote our culture, which is fast phasing out," he said.

Samuel further acknowledged BSP's green campaign which "is very vital in reinforcing positive values in the community".

 He said BSP contributed in a big way towards civic pride in Goroka through the weekly cleanathon conducted by Elijah and his staff, and donation of empty drums to the Goroka Area Authority last year.

 Samuel appeal to the people of Eastern Highlands to take ownership of Goroka and do their bit to keep the town clean.

He said Goroka would be chock-a-block with visitors next month for the show.

"We have got to portray a positive image by doing our bit to keep the town clean," Samuel said.

 Elijah said BSP was happy to assist such community events such as Goroka Show.

Goroka full of rubbish

Caption: A pig feasting on rubbish right along the Highlands Highway in the centre of Goroka, opposite the airport.-Picture by DAVID RUMBA RUMBA


With just over a month to go before the world-famous Goroka Show, the town is stinking with piles of uncollected rubbish everywhere, which are feasted upon by pigs in full view of everyone.

Goroka resident David Rumba Rumba has called on Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Smith Kela, Goroka MP Thompson Harokaqve, lord mayor, town manager, and provincial and district administrators to urgently attend to this if the town is to save face.

Another source told me that rubbish drums set up around town by major Goroka Show sponsor Bank South Pacific – whose staff are involved in cleaning the town every Friday – have been removed.

"The sight is very distasteful and abhorrent," a concerned Rumba Rumba said.

" Rubbish everywhere, not just anywhere, right in the middle of town, opposite Bird of Paradise Hotel, next to the airport, the post office, the busy shopping fronts at popular West Goroka, vegetable market and highway bus stops.

"The whole of Goroka stinks!

"Rubbish heaps all around waiting for ever to be collected and disposed of.

"Even pigs are free to roam and feast on the rubbish!"

Rumba Rumba said there was virtually no attempt by the Goroka Urban Town Authority, provincial government and district office to fix up the mess the town was sliding into.

He predicted that tourists and visitors to Goroka would be shocked by the sight of the filthy town next month.

"What are we trying to showcase?" Rumba Ruma wondered.

"Our rich traditional cultures mixed with our unhealthy and filthy way of life which is very evident with the current state of Goroka town?

"The challenge is now on the Governor, Member for Goroka, lord mayor, town manager and provincial and district administrators to act quickly to fix up the mess and start beautifying the town.

"They must come along with dump trucks to clean up the town, including the drains, and dispose of the stinking rubbish properly.

"After a major clean up, they must enforce litter laws and start punishing law breakers.

"This is the way to go.

"There should be no excuses whatsoever.

"If steps are not taken to rectify this unhygienic and hazardous problem,  then the citizens of Goroka should be seriously thinking of instituting class action against the authorities for neglect of duty,  thereby endangering the lives and health of its people and putting residents' lives at great risk."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Address to the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney - Resetting the Relationship: The future of Australian engagement with Papua New Guinea


Australian Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted that High Commissioner Charles Lepani is here this evening. He is a good friend of Australia and works tirelessly to improve awareness and understanding of PNG amongst Australians, as well as build the people to people connections that are important to a healthy bilateral relationship.
Papua New Guinea is an enormously complex nation.
It is regarded as the most linguistically diverse country on earth with more than 800 languages spoken by its 6.5 million citizens, with over 80 per cent of its population existing on subsistence farming.
Development in Papua New Guinea is in part hostage to its geography. 
Many of its local communities are some of the most remote and inaccessible in the world. 
As a country, it is less urbanised than all others, except Burundi.
The reality of this was brought home during my recent trip to Papua New Guinea, during which I had the opportunity to visit the first LNG project in the country currently under construction in the Southern Highlands.
The partners in this $15 billion project include Exxon Mobil as operator, Oil Search, Santos and the PNG Government.
We flew into Moro, and were required to take helicopters to reach the deepest parts of the Highlands region – the usual mode of transport for people, equipment and supplies connected with the LNG project.
It is a land of unbelievable beauty with impressive mountains and cliff faces rising up out of dense lush rainforest. 
Wild rivers wind their way through deep, rugged gorges. 
The sheer logistics of constructing massive LNG facilities in this remote and seemingly untouched location must be a nightmare.
Yet, I had asked an Exxon representative how the project would rate in terms of difficulties, compared with other similar projects in developing countries around the world, with a score of 1 being easy and a score of 10 being extremely difficult.
Interestingly he gave this project a very positive score of two from the location and logistical perspective, but a score of nine for the social and cultural challenges.
In other words, the mammoth task of constructing conditioning plants, production facilities, airstrips, roads, accommodation camps for thousands of workers, as well as a 750 km pipeline across the mountains and a 400 km seabed pipeline to Port Moresby, was relatively manageable compared with the task of managing the demands, fears, grievances and expectations of the landowners and local villagers.
It must also be noted that it is a land where geography and limited state capacity have combined to ensure that government services and infrastructure are noticeable mainly for their absence. 
This pretty well sums up the two sides to the Papua New Guinea story.
On the one hand, Papua New Guinea is at an important juncture in its development.
It is on the verge of a mining and resource boom that should generate massive foreign exchange inflows with the potential to radically alter the course of its economic and social development.
With the number of large mineral resource projects soon to come online, there is a sense of optimism and expectation that a new beginning for the country is just around the corner.
If current forecasts are realised, the mining and resource projects, planned and underway, will more than double the size of the PNG economy within a decade.
While there has been over 20 years of mineral exploration in the country, the PNG LNG project alone is expected to double the country's gross domestic product and triple its exports.
It is the largest private sector investment ever undertaken in Papua New Guinea and is expected to produce over nine trillion cubic feet of gas over the course of its life. 
The first deliveries of LNG are scheduled to take place in 2014.  Supply contracts have already been signed with key buyers in Japan, Korea and China.
According to an economic impact study by ACIL Tasman, the project:

"has the potential to transform the economy of Papua New Guinea, boosting GDP and export earnings, providing a major increase in government revenue, royalty payments to landowners, creating employment opportunities during construction and operation, and providing a catalyst to further gas-based industry development."

The sheer size of this project can be gauged by the fact that PNG's gross domestic product will rise in real terms from 8.65 billion Kina in 2006 to an average of 18.2 billion Kina.
With the economy predicted to grow by over 8 per cent, there is a lot to be excited about over PNG's economic performance.
The current period of economic growth – the longest since Independence – has had a beneficial effect on the country's poverty levels, which are estimated to have declined by more than 8 per cent between 2003 and 2008.
That is one side of the PNG story. 
On the other hand, enormous social development challenges still exist.
Currently ranked 137th out of 169 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, Papua New Guinea faces significant challenges, with high poverty rates, poor life expectancy and high infant and maternal mortality.
The population is increasing at 2.7 per cent per year.
Unemployment is high and civil unrest is growing.
According to the World Bank, gross national income in PNG in 2007 – when measured for purchasing power parity – was $1,870. 
This placed it second last in a list of select East Asia and Pacific economies, only slightly in front of Cambodia. 
It ranked the lowest in terms of life expectancy at birth and access to an improved water source. 
According to the Asian Development Bank, only one in ten Papuan New Guineans have access to electricity.
In 2010, the average time spent attending school in PNG was 4.3 years. 
According to AusAID, "PNG is unlikely to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015".
Outside the urban centres where government capacity is more pronounced, it is in the remote and regional areas that the effects of poverty are felt most heavily. 
Extending government services and infrastructure beyond urban centres must be one of the biggest challenges facing PNG if poverty is to be reduced and living standards improved. 
This is particularly important if improvements are to be achieved in child and maternal health, because according to figures published by the World Health Organization, 86 per cent of births occurred in rural areas in 2006. 
While progress has been achieved in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, much more work still needs to be done. 
The prevalence rate in PNG currently stands around 1 per cent.
However, such was the initial concern at its growing prevalence that parallels were drawn with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is rife. 
Papua New Guinea also faces the difficult task of strengthening its institutions and levels of good governance.
While the PNG LNG project will bring huge benefits for Papua New Guinea, it also presents a unique set of challenges that will test the institutional capacity of the government.
The dangers of "Dutch disease" are well known to countries with a dominant energy and mineral resource sector.
Papua New Guinea's reliance on export earnings from its energy and mineral resources leaves it vulnerable to a potential downturn in the global economy or international commodity prices. 
The 2009 PNG Budget papers for example, foreshadowed a 25 per cent decline in domestic tax revenues brought about by the Global Financial Crisis.
Promoting growth in other sectors of the economy is therefore crucial.  This means reinvesting earnings of its mining boom back into the economy, in the form of increased recurrent and development expenditure.
With revenues flooding in, there is also the concern that political will for further reform in other areas will falter.
As Aaron Batten has written for the East Asia Forum, "those provinces which have recorded the largest earnings from resource extraction have been plagued by the weakest governance, the poorest levels of service delivery and in many cases violence."
Strong fiscal management will be required to control the effects of the booming resource sector, as further upward pressure is placed on already high inflation levels. 
Inflation has the negative effect of driving up the cost of essential household staples, making it harder for individuals and families to escape the poverty trap.
A rising currency also damages the competitiveness of local exports, such as in the cash-crop sector, making it more difficult for growers to participate in, and benefit from, the global economy.
Reducing this pressure through the creation of sovereign wealth funds is a positive step.
 As the past has shown us however, these funds must be properly managed.
Given the expected sharp rise in the country's income, with the potential to increase imports, decrease exports and affect the non-resource sector, it was apparent from my discussions with PNG officials that they are anxious to avoid the symptoms of "Dutch disease".
It is encouraging that the PNG Government has set up a joint Treasury-Bank of PNG working group to consider options for the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund to manage the expected large revenues generated by the LNG project.
The lessons from the 1990s mineral boom are harsh.
The increased export earnings at that time caused the exchange rate to appreciate.
The large incomes earned by the workers, the landowners and the government led to a consumption boom and inflation spike.
Mismanagement, waste, corruption, excessive spending and a collapse in commodity prices all combined to deny PNG the long term benefits that should have been derived from that boom.
Sectors of the economy including agriculture are still recovering from the negative effects. 
There is a current debate as to whether the sovereign wealth funds will be established onshore or offshore but I understand that the Government has decided there will be three integrated and coordinated funds – a stabilisation fund, an infrastructure fund and a future generations (savings) fund.
An ever present challenge is the Wantok system, which acts as a social security safety net where people are obliged to support their relatives and tribal groups.
I met Dame Carol Kidu the Queensland born wife of the late PNG Chief Justice Sir Buri Kidu,  a delightful woman and deeply committed to PNG.
She married and moved to PNG in the late 1960s.
After Sir Buri's death, Dame Carol was elected to parliament in 1997 and is currently the only female member of the PNG parliament.
We discussed the challenge of a work-life balance for busy MPs but she put it all in perspective as she explained that she supports many of her late husband's relatives, and as a matter of routine, arrives home from a busy day in her electorate to cook an evening dinner for 20 or more.
The Wantok system is ingrained in PNG society but there is a need to build understanding that it cannot be used as an excuse for corruption or abuse of power.
Next year's election will be a test for the PNG. With the ill health of Sir Michael Somare, there is an increased level of uncertainty surrounding the outcome.
While the Coalition is aware of the many challenges facing PNG, we are confident that they can be overcome.
From my perspective, our relationship with Papua and New Guinea must be one of our highest foreign policy priorities.
Australia and Papua New Guinea do enjoy a special relationship. 
Bound together by the closeness of our shores and united by history, the destinies of our two countries are tightly connected. 
As Papua New Guinea prepares to enter this unique period in its history, the Coalition believes that Australia must stand firmly alongside the PNG Government and its people in their efforts to fulfil the country's immense potential and lay claim to its rightful status as a natural leader in the Pacific Ocean region.
I believe that we should look to PNG to place a greater investment in its own development and uphold standards of good governance and accountability.
On the international stage, I believe that Australia should work more closely with the PNG Government as stakeholders in the region to promote stability and foster greater levels of prosperity.
During my visit I met with the recently appointed Foreign Minister Ano Pala – which turned out to be his first diplomatic meeting with an overseas representative.
He has a long-standing love of Australia and even trained with Hawthorn AFL Club as a 17-year-old.
He rightly describes Australia and PNG as permanent partners.
It must be a partnership founded on mutual respect and shared benefits.
A Coalition government will strive to reset the relationship based on an economic and strategic partnership rather than aid donor and recipient.
It is time to leave behind notions from past eras in our relationship. 
Like all relationships, we have experienced our share of highs and lows. 
The point is not whether we have our differences, but how we manage them that matters.
At these times, we must avoid any tendency to revert to old labels and stereotypes which undermines our ability to further strengthen our ties.
There must be a firm focus on self sufficiency rather than aid dependency.
In the same way that PNG is entering a unique period in its development, we are approaching a turning point in our bilateral relationship.
Australia's development assistance to Papua New Guinea, estimated to be $482 million in 2011-12, has declined as percentage of PNG's GDP over the years.
With the revenue from resource projects set to boost its economy even further, Australian aid will play a comparatively lesser role in PNG's development.
The Coalition supports the current focus of Australia's development assistance on the crucial areas of health and education.
We believe that as the PNG Government takes on a larger role in the delivery of services and conditions improve, Australian assistance should progressively be directed towards areas that will help facilitate economic growth.
The former Howard Government recognised this crucial connection between economic growth and poverty reduction.
Training the workforce is a major priority and Australia is playing a part, with support for the education system more broadly, but more particularly with the establishment in mid 2007 of the Australia-Pacific Technical College.
An initiative of the Howard Government, the Technical College, with locations in Port Moresby as well as other Pacific Islands, offers students the opportunity to gain Australian standard skills and qualifications, including in the automotive, manufacturing, construction and electrical trades,
I met with a number of the students during my visit, and they were very keen to be among the many thousands who will be employed on PNG resource projects.
In 2007, the Howard Government established the Enterprise Challenge Fund for the Pacific and South East Asia to provide grants to small businesses that had viable commercial projects with demonstrable benefits to the community.
The Enterprise Challenge Fund aimed to stimulate growth and employment opportunities, and ensure that the most disadvantaged members of society had an opportunity to participate in the economy.
I visited a small business in Port Moresby which used a grant from the Enterprise Challenge Fund to purchase processing equipment from India, and you can now buy various products at gourmet stores in Sydney, including coffee beans, vanilla pods, and cinnamon sticks, among other things.
It was building up a successful export business and the benefits from the grant have flowed on to the hundreds of growers and their families that the small business directly supports.
The Asian Development Bank and the International Finance Corporation are also working in this space to promote growth and expand access to financial services. 
Resource projects are providing opportunities for small and medium businesses to increase their production and distribution.
Providing access to capital is ultimately a job for the private sector, however our aid program can fill a gap as the business sector matures.
Further, I believe Australia should redouble its efforts to negotiate the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economy Relations, otherwise known as PACER Plus. 
This agreement presents a significant opportunity for Australia and Pacific Island countries to cement a closer economic relationship that will promote economic growth, open up markets, provide employment and raise standards of living.
The Institute for International Trade states that PACER Plus could also address barriers to economic integration, promote public and private sector investment and build capacity in trade-related areas.
While trade liberalisation is never easy, the results are worth it.
This also applies to the telecommunications sector in PNG.
In its submission to a Senate Committee inquiry on the Economic Challenges facing Papua New Guinea and the island states of the southwest pacific, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated that the liberalisation of the mobile phone market had "expanded coverage and reduced consumer prices significantly, providing a boost to small business".
Creating an environment that is capable of sustaining long-term economic growth is vital to Papua New Guinea with its young population and high birth rate.
Moving our relationship from a development to an economic focus will require action by the PNG Government to strengthen business conditions in the country.
In areas where Australian help is still needed to provide service delivery, we must find better ways to do it.
We should better recognise the work that the private sector plays in overseas development. 
The role of public private partnerships features strongly in the US development program.
According to USAID, the successful implementation of activities often requires expertise in marketing, recruiting, training, logistics, manufacturing, and policy and advocacy, "Because these are core competencies in business many companies have personnel who excel in these areas".
The energy and mineral resource companies in PNG are already active participants in the development area.
These companies have provided new infrastructure, roads and bridges, that otherwise would not exist.
Oil Search for example is reaching out to local villages, providing them with services such as school, as well as basic medical facilities and clinics raising awareness of HIV/AIDS.
If the United Nations Millennium Development Goals are to be realised in PNG, these companies will continue to play an important role. 
Their networks are not only more efficient than the government, they reach further into the country where living conditions are at their lowest.
The success of their outreach programs has been acknowledged by the international aid community. 
In 2010 for example, Oil Search was nominated by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as a Principal Recipient for its program in PNG.
Other avenues outside government channels, such as churches, local community groups and non-government organisations, must also be leveraged.
Churches already provide health care and education services in PNG.
The Coalition has in the past been highly critical of the Australian Government's reliance on technical assistance.
According to a review by the Australian National Audit Office in 2009, Australia spent nearly double the proportion of its development assistance on consultants compared to the OECD average.
Evidence before the 2010 Review of the PNG-Australia Development Cooperation Treaty, suggested "that the capacity building through advisers model is not working."
This assistance has dismayed many people in PNG with reports of excessive salaries for consultants being seen as 'boomerang aid'. I note that while the Australian government has taken steps to reduce the number of consultants there is a need for skills and expertise in governance and administration to be institutionalised.
From my meetings in PNG, it was clear that there is support for the continuation of the Strongim Gavman Program, which has been credited with achieving reform and improved levels of governance in key areas such as treasury and finance.
This initiative grew out of the Enhanced Cooperation Program initiated by the former Howard Government.
This process should be strengthened further, with Australian funds used to support placement opportunities for select Papua New Guineans in all levels of government in Australia. 
Increased opportunity for twinning would improve the transfer of knowledge and skills that are needed in areas such as basic service delivery, research and policy formation, and public service management.
With an improving economy, PNG will have an opportunity to better equip its defence forces. Australia must be alert to ensuring that it remains the defence partner of choice.
As each year passes, Australia loses part of a generation of people with a deep knowledge and connection to PNG from its pre-independence days.
Australia and PNG must work to build a new generation of networks that will carry our relationship forward.
This includes building relationships with current and future leaders in government, in business and the community. 
This must be driven from the highest levels of the Australian Government. 
Another possible area of closer collaboration is sport. 
Like Australia, sport cuts across cultural, social and geographic barriers.
Rugby League in particular has achieved an almost religious status. 
Time and time again I was struck by the influence of Queensland's rugby league stars – from young boys throughout the Southern Highlands wearing maroon jerseys to the extensive coverage in local newspapers – it was overwhelming.
When I mentioned to some local journalists at a dinner in Port Moresby hosted by our High Commissioner that perhaps we should reinstate the International Schoolboy Rugby League competition, I opened up a fierce debate about how soon PNG could have a team in the NRL.
I met with the manager of a huge construction company who related how his 2000 workers refused to go back to work on the day of a visit to the site by Mal Meninga, such was their determination to see and hopefully touch their idol.
I was told by astute observers of PNG culture that the rugby league State of Origin Series in particular has the power to unite the nation like no other issue.
A deeply tribal country with its 800 languages, where family and tribe loyalty comes first and last, it seems the people of PNG are at one in their love of rugby league.
It was reported to me that when PNG trialled a preferential voting system, voting slips bearing the faces of Queensland icons, Mal Meninga, Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer, were used as the mock candidates, rather than local politicians, to be sure of a strong voter turnout for the test run.
Some people were reportedly deeply disappointed to find that they had not in fact voted in Meninga as national leader.
I think that we should harness that immense goodwill and develop a sport and diplomacy initiative within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Opening up new opportunities for dialogue and increasing the level of trust between our two nations will be important as we deal with issues that are likely to emerge in the coming years.
One such issue will be the referendum on Bougainville's future to be held at a time between 2015 and 2020.
The Coalition strongly supports ongoing dialogue between the PNG Government and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and stands ready to assist in anyway possible to ensure that goodwill is maintained.
As permanent partners and close friends, Australia must be committed to helping the people of PNG along the road to a more sustainable and prosperous future.
With its economy expected to grow sharply in the coming years, PNG is well positioned to take hold of its destiny.
This will require strong leadership and an unrelenting determination on the part the PNG government to succeed.
The Coalition is confident that PNG has the potential to make this transformation.
Under the Coalition policy of appointing a Minister for International Development Assistance, I expect that PNG will be the primary focus for that Ministry as we use development assistance and access to our markets to expand opportunities for growth and employment.
Ultimately, it will be our actions not our words, that will demonstrate beyond doubt that Papua New Guinea is one of Australia's top foreign policy priorities.
I thank the Lowy Institute for the opportunity to speak this evening about resetting our relationship with Papua New Guinea so that the people of our two countries believe that we are equal partners in a joint destiny.

Papua New Guinea needs a new leadership

Today, Papua New Guinea desperately needs good strong and a honest leadership to drive our government machinery forward.

Presently, it is sluggish and all agencies do not seem to be functioning as a collective,  well-drilled team.

This is because the coalition government is not made up of the right people who want to see change in our country.

It is comprised of selfish people with many different personal agendas who do not really care about PNG's national interest.

Papua New Guinea needs to now make broad and sweeping political reforms to overhaul all systems and processes.

We also need good honest leaders in parliament.

The government must take the lead and be prepared to make the required changes for a better future.

This is PM Somare's greatest challenge before he exits the political scene.

If he is not prepared to do this, then it is time he retired from politics.

He will be more respected in future if he hands over the tough job to a more-capable and energetic political leader to take PNG to a whole new level of strong political leadership, good governance and accountability.

Lastly, our government must start taking pressure off its Australian counterpart by systematically reducing AusAID funding levels as a grant component of the national budget over the 15 to 20 years.

I feel we are again all going to wait for some time until the current leadership dies out and hope the next lot do a better job than the current mob.

To totally transform PNG in future, parliament must be fully functional, as must all state agencies at the three levels - national, provincial, local - right down to the ward councils.

The national mindset, and the people put in charge at all levels, must have the required training, experience and be properly remunerated.

This way, they can be totally committed to what is required of them to make the whole state mechanism work to the country's benefit.

Papua New Guinea needs a responsible and responsive government with an effective opposition as a counter-balancing force to make parliament an effective law-making body.

Importantly, the PM must be in tune with what the whole country needs and work in direct and close collaboration with the opposition leader in and out of parliament.

The leaders of both the government and opposition must work with industry, community stakeholders and external development partners to ensure the state is functioning like a well-oiled machine.

While it's easier said than done, it's all about good leadership, organisation and ensuring the environment created by PNG's political leadership (and government) is conducive to make every agency function well and in unison.

Parliament must elect a new prime minister



The political stability PNG has endured under Prime Minister Michael Somare since 2002 is becoming unravelled.
This can be prevented by the man in the centre of action – acting PM, Sam Abal.
Yes, this whole situation can be well managed with the required finesse; if Abal’s formerly acquired skills of diplomacy are properly
exercised with some careful measure of prudency.
Yes, citizens should now be asking their local members ‘relevant questions’ who must now indicate to their respective constituencies as
to how they will cast their vote without fear or favour if parliament is to elect a new prime minister this year in accordance with our
Well, should parliament elect a new prime minister?
But first let’s look at how this whole political situation could have all been avoided in the first place.
The predicament facing the acting PM now is a result of having left something outstanding for too long by the government since 2002.
Had something being done then to prepare for future political contingencies in future, we would not even be speculating whether we
should change leadership in midstream now and go for early polls.
Thus, we are now faced with this task of finding an agreed procedure to change leadership to the satisfaction of all vested-interests in
Today’s situation shows the government and the NA Party do not have a good succession plan during critical incidents such as now.
By now, we should have stipulated constitutional provisions stating clearly and without ambiguity something to the effect that: should the
PM be indisposed from official duties for a consecutive period exceeding 90 days through ill-health or otherwise, then the acting PM
through NEC and parliament must without delay invoke relevant sections of the national constitution.
These provisional clauses should be both mandatory and legally be applicable here and in foreign jurisdictions.
What’s now happening was already set into motion some months ago when the PM was referred to a leadership tribunal.
This resulted in a fortnight suspension of the PM from official duties followed by a routine medical check up in an overseas medical
After the PM underwent medical operation,  his post-operative recovery period has now extended well over three months due to some earlier
medical complications.  

Latest reports say he is well and recovering.
But full recovery will take some appreciable period of time.

 Hence, the uncertainties surrounding the overall health condition of Sir Michael Somare will no doubt continue.
In addition, the prolonged anticipated recovery period of the PM will undoubtedly prompt obvious questions being raised in parliament regarding the government’s leadership succession arrangements to be addressed in a timely manner.
PNG and parliament can not be held in suspense for obvious reasons.
Consequently, there has now been increasing calls from the parliamentary opposition party and speculations are now rife in media
commentaries of late to activate provisions of the country’s Constitution (Section 142, s5c).

 This is to accurately determine Sir Michael Somare’s overall state of fitness to continue as the PM.
This clearly indicates the groundswell voice of reality by the citizenry in recent times.
Thus, the time is now ripe for parliament to elect a new PM using appropriate constitutional and legal means to effect a regime change
at this time.
Many Papua New Guineans also feel it is time for a new young captain at the ship’s helm.
Yes, it is a good idea for a fresh new competent leadership to take PNG to a whole new level that must go beyond the next election.
Moreover, the perceived political instability started some months ago was the government’s own doing.
The public is not really interested in the NA party’s dirty linen being aired in public.  

They don’t care at all for it but do care if it’s done on the people’s time.
The prevailing situation could have been altogether averted had the PM not unduly changed his then competent deputy PM, Don Polye.
The member for Kandep’s total commitment to his party is unwavering.
Don’s loyalty is unquestioned and his actions proved this on many occasions.
When peers in more recent times have tried to distract his attention elsewhere, he was not easily swayed but remained fully focused on the
job at hand at all times.
But like former deputy PM, Sir Puka Temu, Don Polye also saw many serious deficiencies within his own party and the government machinery.
Perhaps it was his declared intention to clean up the mess left unaddressed since 2002 that may have alarmed those within the party
inner circle to see that Don did not rock the boat now during the terminal stages of the PM’s long reign.
Nevertheless, Don’s assertive nature as the deputy PM looked good to the citizens.  

The people had hope that he would bring some good order and much credibility back into the government.
Whether the PM saw Don’s future plans to do some much-needed house-cleaning in government is a bad thing for PNG, so in his own
wisdom altered his senior status can only now be speculated upon.
PM Somare knew fully well that his decision to replace Don Polye was fundamentally wrong when he was the Highland’s deputy party leader; but went ahead anyway.  

This has had a far-reaching implication in government as well as create deep rift among the Engan MPs.
This deliberate act has not given positive outcomes but only created more confusion, distrust within government ranks and unnecessary
political instability.
So there may not be any compelling reasons to go for early polls before 2012.
Firstly, there is no constitutional avenue to do this and secondly, the NEC itself will for obvious reasons, not recommend that option to
the Governor General to dissolve parliament now and go for early polls.
Let’s now look at the options available for PNG.
Option one: Maintain the status quo.  

This will confirm Sam Abal as the PM as he is not doing too bad a job.  

An experienced former bureaucrat, level-headed and is a cool guy under pressure.  

But Sam needs to further fine-tune his team as the last reshuffle has some flaws about it.

 Under Sam, the government must immediately lift its game to improve the quality of life of the people.
Option two: A ‘vote of no-confidence’ motion.  

This has failed a few times due to ineffective strategies to garner majority support.  

The opposition still does not have the required numbers and its agreed choice of an alternative PM is not generally supported.  

The majority of MPs would want to serve under a credible leader who will make a real difference in the short time that parliament has before the polls.
Option three: the credibility of the regime leaves a lot to be desired.  

There are many good quality MPs in both the opposition and middle benches who can still offer much to greatly enhance government’s performance levels.

 Hence, it is a good idea for a grand coalition of a ‘unity government’ to take PNG on a path of righteousness in future.  

With the acting PM under pressure from within his own party, the opposition and middle-benches must offer its full support to Sam Abal for a grand coalition to work for the good of PNG.  

Good governance, rule of law and a strong anti-corruption action is the way to go in 2011 and beyond.
Option four: An ‘absolute majority’.  

Should a grand coalition be rejected than parliament should now be working hard to form an ‘absolute majority’ by building coalitions numbers within itself.
This may be possible by grouping together all like-minded government front and back-benchers, middle-benches along with opposition MPs to form a ‘unity government’.

 The whole aim here is to ensure that parliament and government actually practices good governance, accountability, transparency and the rule of law at all times now and in future.  

A credible and a strong leader with a caring heart and a champion of the people must be elected as the PM now.
There are many good reasons why PM Somare should be allowed to retire in dignity.

 The grand old man has achieved many things in politics and has nothing more to prove now.
Sir Michael Somare should be allowed to fully recover in his own time with his family; and with no undue stress from official duties.
It is now time for a new era of good leadership for PNG.
The way forward now is for parliament to elect a new prime minister using what best option it sees fit in the national interest.
Parliament must be given three credible nominees for a prime minister candidate to be elected ‘at this time’.
After much in-deep analysis, the following recommendations to parliament for the next new prime minister in 2011 are as follows: for
the government, acting PM, Sam Abal;  for the opposition, Sir Puka Temu and Governor Powes Parkop for both options three and four above.
In the final analysis, I see all three men as good capable and humble leaders representing PNG at best.
But if for some reason parliament wants to see a real difference in the way PNG is governed than I appeal to all MPs now to set their
personal prejudices aside, and elect Governor Powes Parkop as the next new prime minister for PNG in 2011.
Powes Pakop has empathy, humility and humbleness who will lead PNG well.  

He has a real kind heart and spirit for people and has credibly proven his genuine leadership qualities as governor NCD against many

Parkop is a man of few words like Sam Abal and Sir Puka Temu but a good decent man of action to see the better side of tomorrow who
will give real hope to our people in future.
In the past few years, many Papua New Guineans have now seen Powes Parkop as a capable leader who has greater potential to lead the nation to the path of prosperity now and in future.
I call on every Papua New Guinean to give their full support for Powes Parkop to be elected the next new prime minister for PNG now.

·         The author is a former senior PNG Defence Force officer and now a part-time social commentator and community advocate.


BSP decries fraud guideline


THE largest commercial bank in PNG has decried new regulations imposed on banks by the police fraud squad to stop fraudulent payments, The National reports.
Bank South Pacific yesterday said guidelines from the fraud squad's financial intelligence unit were "actually aimed at abrogating the responsibility and liability of the government in terms of ensuring good governance".
Answering questions from The National, BSP chief executive officer Ian Clyne said the application and enforcement of the guidelines would result in extra cost to banks which would naturally pass on to government. 
He said government development projects around the country would be delayed for unnecessarily long periods while audits were conducted by banks to ensure payments for each of the pro­jects were legitimate. 
"While well-meaning, the guidelines are unlikely to achieve their objective of reducing fraud associated with government contracts and payments, and may well lead to a reduction in development and infrastructure pro­jects," Clyne said.
Clyne said: "Government road, school, health, electricity and water projects will be delayed for months, regularly stopped to await milestone payments or simply not done.
"For banks to 100% comply with these guidelines, they will need to engage or recruit a large number of lawyers, civil engineers and auditors.
"This is simply not the responsibility of commercial banks."
At the same time, he said government officers would have their private bank details examined on a regular basis even if they had acted properly and professionally. 
"The banks would pass on all additional costs to the government and/or the company and could involve many thousands of kina."
He said the guidelines effectively transfer government's oversight and checks and balance responsibilities to commercial banks and the Bank of PNG.
"The lack of public debate on the FIU's assertion that 25-40% of all government payments are defrauded is a concern."
Clyne said it was the responsibility of the auditor-general, attorney-general and all government department secretaries and the Ombudsman Commission to ensure there was transparency and accountability in all government transactions.
Clyne said the new regulations would seriously hinder the go­vernment's ability to effectively undertake and deliver public service projects as banks will now be required to undertake stringent checks before making payments to contractors and suppliers.
Some of the checks included:
  • Validating the tender document and process to ensure all documentation follows all rele­vant government regulations;
  • Checking that no public servant associated with the process has received any financial benefit which will require a check of personal bank accounts;
  • Ensuring the selection of the successful contractor or supplier is done on a transparent and independent basis. That the owners of these entities have not made any strange payments during this period to third parties close to the government again requires checking company and personal bank accounts;
  • Ensuring that the contractor or supplier delivers the project or goods in line with the contract specifications and that requires specialist engineering verifi­cation which will have to be conducted on site all over PNG (this is not a normal banking service);
  • Identify and check the people receiving payments are entitled to such payments in terms of their employment or ownership of the contractor or supplier; 
  • Payments must be made on set milestones and deliverables, which means that this audit process has to be undertaken by a bank several times for each project to validate each indi­vidual milestone payment;
  • Every payment cleared by the bank must be signed by two verifying bank officers; and
  • These officers and the banks are liable on an on-going basis if, at some time in the future, it can be proven that a fraud or overpayment has occurred, even if the bank has made an enormous effort to validate the transaction.
Clyne said: "The conse­quen­ces are obvious and conside­ra­ble. 
"Any company or individuals, who tender for government contracts, will have all milestone or contract payments delayed by several weeks, if not months. 
"Contractors may suffer severe financial cash-flow problems as they must fund the whole project and pay wages, among others, and then wait until the banks have finished their full file compliance review. 
Should banks not be willing to accept the risks and liabilities associated with auditing and processing government cheques and payments of this type, they will simply refuse to negotiate these government payments which would have very serious ramifications for both the government and the banking sector.
The FIU's regulation is initially aimed at all transactions of K2 million and above. 
Clyne claimed the FIU regulations were "not" based on any international "best practice" precedence. 
They are "not" enforced in this way in other democratic countries. 
He also expressed concern that the potentially damaging regulation had been in force since last month but had largely been ignored by the government and businesses.

Polye: Come and get me


MEMBER for Kandep Don Polye, who insists he is still the National Alliance highlands party deputy leader, says those who want to oust him should do so at the caucus meeting, The National reports.
He arrived in Goroka, Eastern Highlands, yesterday for the NA highlands caucus meeting.
He told the NA regional leaders that he was in Goroka to conduct the caucus meeting as required by the party constitution.
"If they want to remove me, this is their chance," Polye said. 
"They must come to this meeting and follow the proper procedures in the party constitution to remove me.
"But, if they do not come, I, Don Pomb Polye, will remain the deputy leader of NA in the highlands."
He said that any breaches of the party's consti­tution would set a bad precedent for the party.
"Therefore, I followed the constitution as the regional deputy leader to call the meeting," he said.
Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal was last week elected by the party's parliamentarians to replace Polye. 
Polye yesterday thanked the highlands party provincial executives who met him at the airport, saying they were also committed to seeing the party's constitution maintained and followed.
He said the faction supporting Abal was trying to use the parliamentary process to remove him.
Polye said this was not the correct process in the party constitution.
Party executives Joyce Grant, John Timberambe, NA highlands president James Kond and NA MPs Sailon Beseo (Kainantu) and David Arore (Ijivitari) accompanied Polye to Goroka.
Provincial executives in the highlands region came with party members to the caucus meeting in Goroka.