Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alexander Downer: PNG's woes matter to us


I was in New York to brief the United Nations Security Council last week when I saw the ugly scenes from Canberra of our Prime Minister and Opposition Leader being bundled out of a restaurant by security officers protecting them from protesters. This incident made news right around the world. It was embarrassing. All day people were asking me what was going on in Australia.
Imagine my horror when I subsequently discovered that there was a political motive behind the protest: To try to humiliate Tony Abbott! Talk about an own goal! A Labor staffer had to resign and the protesters were seen to be party to a political stunt. But, as I said to my interlocutors, this was just a passing incident which will be well forgotten in a few months.
Just to the north of Australia, something much more serious has been going on. For the last few months, Papua New Guinea has been engulfed by a political and constitutional crisis.
The country has, in effect, had two prime ministers and two governors general. As you can imagine, that's a very untidy situation.
All this goes back to March last year when Papua New Guinea's long-serving prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, had heart surgery in Singapore. In June, his family announced that Somare had retired. However, there was legal uncertainty about how to replace him, uncertainty the parliament tried to resolve by electing the Finance Minister, Peter O'Neill, as Prime Minister in August.
In the meantime, Somare recovered and returned to PNG claiming he was legally still PM. He went to court and in early December the Supreme Court ruled he indeed was. So the Parliament immediately passed retrospective legislation to overturn the Supreme Court decision. But despite the Parliament overwhelmingly supporting O'Neill, the Governor General swore Somare in as Prime Minister.
The Parliament then sacked the Governor General and appointed the Speaker in his place, and he then rescinded Somare's commission and swore in O'Neill as PM.
This seemed to be pretty much the end of it all until last week when a colonel walked into the office of the chief of the defence force and announced he was taking over the army and would restore Somare as prime minister. This horrifying action was quickly overcome as most of the army supported O'Neill.
I think I've got all that right. And it's a test of you to remember all that detail. You don't need to, of course; you just need to get a sense of what's been going on in the nearest country to Australia. When John Howard was Prime Minister of Australia he used to say that his greatest foreign policy worry was that PNG would descend into political chaos. After all, its neighbour the Solomon Islands did, Vanuatu has come perilously close at times and Fiji is run by a dictator who came to power through a coup.
Although I have known Sir Michael Somare for years, my more intense dealings with him started after he was re-elected prime minister in 2002.
In the wake of our intervention in the Solomon Islands in 2003, Howard and I decided we needed to make sure PNG didn't go down the same path as the Solomons. I told Sir Michael we wanted to help improve his police force and public service. There was too much corruption and the police were becoming dysfunctional.
Our proposed new assistance scheme was called the Enhanced Co-operation Program. Let it be recorded Somare resisted this new intervention. He thought it neo-colonial. I told him we were spending $300 million of taxpayers' money a year in PNG and we weren't getting good value for money.
We were worried about where the country was heading. If we couldn't get better value for money by implementing the EPG we would have to wind back our aid substantially.
He caved in. But he never forgave me and was overjoyed when the Howard government was defeated in 2007. Kevin Rudd, he figured, would have to be better for him than Howard and Downer.
Sad to say, but you learn early in life that doing the right thing doesn't always make you popular.
Since late 2007, PNG hasn't featured much in Australian foreign policy. Sure, Australia has set up a committee to get rid of nuclear weapons (it didn't work) and sent aid to help the Arab spring. But we've lost focus on our own neighbourhood and now the most populous country in the Pacific has hit severe political turbulence. Don't get me wrong. There's nothing Australia can do to resolve the current crisis in PNG.
My guess is it will sort itself out and Somare will permanently retire. And so he should. He's been in politics for way too long. He doesn't have anything left to contribute.
But the recent political turbulence in PNG should be a sharp wake-up call in Canberra. We should have seen it coming and helped PNG avoid the crisis which has rocked it to its foundations.
PNG's stability is important to Australia. What is more, the world expects Australia to look after its own neighbourhood. When I became the shadow minister for foreign affairs in early 1995, I made a trip to PNG, including to Bougainville. I'm glad I did.
As minister, it was a country which was at the centre of much of my work. We helped end the Bougainville crisis, we contributed to rebuilding PNG's economy, we fought HIV/Aids there and so the list goes on.
But one thing always struck me. The Australian media and even much of the public had, and still have, very little interest in PNG and the Pacific. That's a pity.
So here's a real message here for Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd: Look to our immediate neighbourhood, don't just focus on the glamour issues on the other side of the world.

* Alexander Downer was Foreign Affairs Minister in the Howard Government from 1996 to 2007.

Arthur Somare wanted by police

Rumours that Arthur Somare has been arrested with all the action taking place at police headquarters now.
Trying to get more information from my contacts.
Timothy Bonga and Andrew Kumbakor claimed on the midday NBC news that they had been harassed by police since their press conference on Sunday.
My understanding is that Arthur, his Grand Chief father, Bonga, Kumbakor and John Pundari are on the wanted list for allegedly stirring up last Thursday's mutiny.
Police on NBC midday news have denied any knowledge of such threats and intimidation.
 They, however, say investigations into last Thursday's incident at Murray Barracks are continuing and if need be, will include any politicians involved.

Graham Osborne hearing set for Feb 9

THE substantive hearing on the deportation case of Graham Leslie Osborne currently challenged in the National Court will be heard next Thursday, The National reports.
Judge George Manuhu presiding over the case yesterday ruled that the substantive and interim court order hearing be adjourned to Feb 9.
Counsel to Osborne, John Gawi, in absence of state lawyer Tiffany Twivey (believed to be overseas) sought instructions to make the adjournment.
The immigration officials have yet to explain why a National Court order was never complied with when Osborne had tried to re-enter PNG on Jan 16.
Instead officers at the Port Moresby Jackson International airport refused entry by the deported New Zealander upon arrival on a flight from Brisbane via Air Niugini on January 16.   
Despite the court order being served twice on January 13 and 16 respectively to acting chief of immigration Joseph Nobetau prior to Osborne’s arrival.
Osborne who runs a restaurant in Port Moresby was deported last month, after his entry permit was cancelled by acting Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Jamie Maxtone-Graham over allegations he meddled in local politics.

Two heads at Customs confuse staff

EMPLOYEES of the Customs Service are confused over the existence of two commissioners in the organisation since Oct 27 last year, The National reports.
The confusion stemmed from a National Gazette (No.G381), purportedly issued by Governor-General Sir Michael Ogio on Dec 29, recognising a Ray Paul as the acting commissioner of Customs ahead of caretaker commissioner John Pomoso.
The gazette, a copy of which was obtained by The National, stated that Paul was appointed on Oct 27 last year and would act in the position for three months until a substantive appointment was made.
Sources said the appointment superseded Pomoso who was verbally appointed to the office by the National Executive Council on the recommendation of former commissioner Gary Juffa.
The sources said any transactions, agreements and decisions entered into by Pomoso on behalf of Customs “are technically not binding”.
Pomoso acknowledged receiving a copy of the gazette and said the same notice would have revoked his acting appointment.
He said there was only one commissioner (acting) in Customs.
“Customs operations are not affected in any way, and work continues as normal.
“Customs staff have only reacted to the Gazette notice because it states that the acting appointment of Paul is for three months which lapsed last Friday and they are asking who is head of Customs if this is so,” he said.
“I think that is the only part that needs to be clarified and appropriately resolved for Customs, whether Paul can still act in the position after the three-month period lapsed,” he said.
But one senior source said the copy of the gazette on the appointment of Paul was never shown to them until last Friday, a day after Paul’s appointment had lapsed.
A circular released by Paul last Friday, with the Gazette, said in part: “I am deeply humbled to inform all executives, senior managers and staff of Customs that following recommendations by the minister of Public Service, the governor-general has confirmed my acting appointment to the position of the commissioner of Customs.
“Subsequent to this, John Pomoso is, as of 07.45 hours on Jan 27, 2012, now relieved from his recent responsibilities as caretaker commissioner of Customs,” the circular read.
Sources said the Gazette may be flawed because it was supposed to be effected by Ano Pala, who was acting GG between Dec 21 last year and Jan 19.
They said there was confusion among staff and urged the prime minister and NEC to act quickly to rectify the situation.

Man arrested over K4.3million

THE executive officer to the Madang MP Buka Malai has been arrested and detained for allegedly swindling K4.25 million from the National Planning office, The National reports.
Detectives who are part of the Task Force Sweep team in Madang said Zebedee Jabri Kalup, from Siar village, had been charged with six counts of misappropriation and false pretence.
The charges stem from the misappropriation of K2.5m which was paid to his private business account, Zenalis Waterfalls Ltd.
It was revealed that the money was for the rehabilitation of the Sitepra Cocoa Estate, in the Kamba area of North Ambenob.
Block holders of Muruan Cocoa Produce and Marketing fronted up at the town police station last Friday to express their disappointment over the manner in which Kalup duped them on several occasions by telling them that the money had “yet to come”.
Kalup had received the money in March last year, a month before having a meeting with the selected block holders who went to his house in Siar.
Village recorder and spokesman for the group, Jack Murphy said they had been conned into clearing bush and left forever waiting for the promised help and funding that “never eventuated”.
In addition, Kalup was charged with misusing K1 million funding, cheque dated March 2, 2011.
The money was paid into Zenalis for an unidentified agriculture project for the district.
And another final payment of K750,000 was paid to his company account two months later for Sea Freight Boat Building maintenance.
Inspections and site visits by the Sweep team uncovered many irregularities.
Zenalis is a company that does not have a properly established office but has business interests in Alotau, where one of his wives is from.
In a separate matter, Kalup is being investigated for the misuse of K700,000 which was supposed to be paid to the Madang District Treasury office for the rehabilitation of the Madang Cocoa and Coconut rehab project. The money was paid out in 2008 and 2009.
He is charged with misuse and obtaining money under false pretence in another separate matter for K500,000.00 from National Planning. That case is before the Waigani committal court.
Sweep team director, Anthony Gitua commended his men for a job well done

Dame Carol Kidu is a breath of fresh air


I predict that by next month, we will have a new Parliamentary Opposition Leader in the only woman MP we have in parliament, Dame Carol Kidu.
This is her statement on the last 72 hours of recent events in Port Moresby: "That's the problem of being the only woman in PNG politics - you can't compete with the big boys and their guns."
  Last Saturday, Dame Carol, a long-time loyal Somare minister, disassociated herself from the Somare side, declaring herself horrified at its support of the mutiny.
Well done Dame! I have the greatest of respect fpor you at the very point in time.
A very good move now in light of what is happening in PNG politics!
Please take charge of our Opposition in Parliament. The people will support you at this juncture because you will no doubt bring back some semblance or good order and disciplined governance in Parliament  (and the government) before PNG goes to the national general elections by mid-year.

Contractors help in recovering bodies

LNG operators and contractors are assisting the SHP provincial disaster office and the national disaster and emergency services in Port Moresby with rescue and resettlement activities, The National reports.
It follows the massive landside near the Hides gas fields last week.
The Hides Gas Development Corporation last Friday donated 48 buckets with water purifiers, extra large tarpaulins, windup torches, medical supplies and food rations.
The company is expected to beef up its assistance once they received a full report from the SHP provincial disaster and the NDES.
The companies are also awaiting the disaster team to advise on the next step.
The provincial disaster team is headed by Martin Pat and includes the provincial police commander Supt John Anawe, NDES Officers Andrew Oaege and Elizabeth Michaels of the Department of Mineral Policy and Geo-hazard Management.
A disaster report has been submitted to the NEC but the mutiny case stopped the NEC from deliberating on the report last week.

Dame Carol is lone opposition member


DAME Carol Kidu has disassociated herself from the Somare camp and offered to take up the position of opposition leader in parliament, The National reports.
Dame Carol, the member for Moresby South and only female parliamentarian, requested in a letter to deputy speaker Francis Marus and clerk Don Pandan that she be allocated a seat in the opposition benches and assume the opposition leadership up to the next parliament sitting on Feb 14.
The Jan 27 letter was addressed to Speaker Jeffery Nape who has yet to reply. 
She assumed herself leader of the opposition as she was the only MP in the Somare camp who had attended parliament since the start of the political impasse in August last year.
“I have become increasingly concerned about the vacuum in the opposition that has resulted from the timeframe necessary for court deliberations on various references and applications made to the judiciary by both factions.”
 Dame Carol said as a parliamentarian and coalition partner, she was taking up the role of presenting the other voice – “something from the Opposition to get bipartisan views on matters debated on the floor of parliament”.
She would stay away from both factions in regards meetings or
coalitions to back the military intervention in politics.
“I have disassociated myself from the Somare faction – because of my discomfort about the press statements made regarding the recent military interventions into the political scenario,” she told reporters yesterday at Parliament House.
While she is a strong supporter of Sir Michael Somare, Dame Carol said she was not part of any cabinet meeting (in the Somare faction) that endorsed the military mutiny – if media reports on that were true.
“If these media statements are correct, I wish to make it clear that I was not present in any such meetings and I disassociate myself from active participation of both factions in the on-going political impasse,” she said

Somare files contempt proceedings


SIR Michael Somare’s faction has filed contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Cabinet members, among others, The National reports.
Also named as respondents are Speaker Jeffery Nape, his deputy Francis Marus and deputy PM Belden Namah.
They have been accused of failing to implement Supreme Court orders issued last Dec 12 to restore Sir Michael as PM.
The application named 35 respondents including chief secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc and lawyer Tiffany Twivey.  The application would be served to the lawyers of the respective respondents by this week.
In response, O’Neill, in a statement last night, said his government would mount a vigorous defence in court.
“The actions of Sir Michael and his members of parliament were those of a desperate group trying to cling onto power,” he said.
“We will vigorously defend this contempt application and have it disposed of in due course.
“These are acts of desperate people who have failed to turn up in parliament to deal with the issue but choose to remain outside of parliament to wrestle government by creating instability in the institutions of state.”
In a media conference yesterday, Sir Michael and suspended Angoram MP Arthur Somare said their group remained the legitimate government.
Sir Michael said the warrants would be issued to each and every one of the respondents and he expected the matter to be heard by the Supreme Court this week.
“We will be asking the court to ask them to show cause why they should not be detained until the final matter is heard,” he said.
O’Neill, with a majority support from parliament, became prime minister last August when Sir Michael was undergoing medical treatment in Singapore.
However, the East Sepik provincial government went to the Supreme Court which ruled on Dec 12 that Sir Michael was not lawfully removed; that the speaker’s decision of Sept 6 to declare Sir Michael had lost his seat was unconstitutional and ordered that Sir Michael be restored to office as prime minister.
Sir Michael said preventing the implementation of the Supreme Court’s findings “is blatant defiance of the Supreme Court decision, hence is in contempt”.
 “These contempt proceedings seek to uphold the integrity of the Supreme Court and respect by the executive and legislature for the judiciary in maintaining the rule of law by upholding our Constitution.”
O’Neill said the issues facing the nation today were not about personalities but about maintaining democracy.
“The national parliament is where every government since Independence has been elected, and defeated.
 “Under our system of government, the government changes when parliament changes the prime minister.”
O’Neill said parliament has moved on since the decision of the Supreme Court in making appropriate legislative changes and decisions, one of which was to reaffirm his election as prime minister.
“What we are witnessing now is a desperate attempt by the Somare family to trample on proper and legal processes to get into government.”
The Somare group should now concentrate on the general election which is only two months away to seek the mandate of the people to govern the country, he added.

Army wives complain about rundown barracks


A GROUP of soldiers’ wives have asked the government to address problems at the barracks where they are staying, The National reports.
The soldiers and their families live at the Taurama Barracks in Port Moresby. In a petition, the wives claimed that there were many pressing issues which had never been dealt with by the government or the defence force.
The wives said there was a big housing problem at  Taurama and other military camps.
Many families were illegally residing in the single quarters at the barracks while others were living in settlements with relatives.
On top of that, many of the colonial homes have never been renovated and were rotting away. Leaking roofs were common.
The barracks also face water supply problems with many families complaining of inadequate supply to their homes. It poses a health risk to the families.
The wives said the continuous abuse of power by a senior officer had been finally put to rest with the appointment of the new commanding officer.
To add to the congestion, families of retired officers remain in the barracks awaiting their final entitlements.
Some widows who claimed to have been underpaid remain there.
The wives pointed out that these internal military issues the soldiers faced led to frustration – with some husbands and fathers forced to join the failed mutiny.
The families want the government to deal with the problems at Taurama – and other military camps – urgently

Sir Michael stands by mutiny leader

THE Somare camp will stand firm behind the appointment of Col Yaura Sasa as the commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, The National reports.
Defence minister in the (Sir Michael) Somare camp Andrew Kumbakor said: “We should not be quick to accept that mutiny took place last week at Murray Barracks. There is a lot at stake here and I know that we are a tribal people that have always had an instinct for danger. We also have an innate sense of what is right and wrong.
“Papua New Guinea knows Michael Somare from the beginning. What we do not know is where Peter O’Neill, Belden Namah or many of the people in the regime came from.
“Knowing who we have been dealing with, it is deplorable to suggest that the Somare government would stage a coup or be responsible for mutiny in the army. Somare is the architect of many of the institutions that are set up today in our country.
“Last year he submitted to the Ombudsman Commission and went before a tribunal.
“In his 43 years of politics he has never manoeuvered outside of the law to retain control of power in this country.”
Kumbakor maintains that the Somare government is the legitimate PNG government.
“We gave Sir Michael the mandate to be prime minister in 2002 and again in 2007. The Supreme Court upheld this fact on Dec 12 and rendered O’Neill’s reign as illegitimate.”
Kumbakor said the Somare government was responsible for the stability, growth and prosperity which PNG enjoyed during the past nine years.
“Through this period of stability we have been able to encourage growth in industry, meaning more people are employed and can afford basic services,” he said.
“Let’s not be hoodwinked by a fly-by-night regime that purports to solve PNG’s problems in a matter of months. We, the Somare government, built the basis upon which the O’Neill regime is able to throw around and squander money just before the election.
“I call on members of the disciplined forces to exercise restraint at all times and to ensure public safety is not compromised.
“Upholding the constitution and the law is the only way that PNG will avert a crisis."

Mutineers surrender


SOLDIERS involved in a short-lived mutiny last Thursday have surrendered their weapons to Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah, The National reports.
In return, Namah yesterday made a submission to the government which granted full amnesty to the soldiers who were led by retired colonel Yaura Sasa.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement last night amnesty was granted to the serving Defence Force soldiers after a meeting of the National Executive Council.
“These are young men determined to serve their country in the military when they enlisted in the PNG Defence Force,” O’Neill said.
“They were, however, misled, used and led astray by desperate politicians and their masters and cronies.
“The soldiers were used by these self-serving individuals to achieve a political outcome.”
“As a responsible government, we will give them a second chance,” O’Neill said.
“We are giving these young men the opportunity to get back on the path to fulfilling their goals and ambitions in the force.”
The NEC also directed Police Commissioner Toami Kulunga and other relevant authorities to investigate and deal with all civilians and members of other civil authorities involved in inciting and participating in the mutiny.
   Sasa, who had been charged with inciting mutiny, remained in custody at the Bomana prison and was scheduled to re-appear in court on Feb 29.
A former military attaché, Sasa, 60, was appointed commander off the PNG Defence Force by Sir Michael Somare, who was ousted by a parliamentary vote last August but maintained he is the legitimate prime minister after he won a Supreme Court case last December.
Sasa and his group of more than 40 armed soldiers made their move in Port Moresby last Thursday, placing the commanding officer of Taurama barracks, Francis Kari, under house arrest. They then drove to the defence headquarters at Murray barracks where they also placed incumbent PNGDF Commander Brig- Gen Francis Agwi and other top military officers under house arrest.
The mutiny folded when senior officers around the country rejected Sasa.
Yesterday, the remnants of Sasa’s men, holed up at Taurama barracks since last Thursday, gave up their arms to Namah and Agwi.
Namah met with top military officials before attending a special parade at the Taurama barracks yesterday morning.
He was accompanied by Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, Community Development Minister Andrew Mald, National Planning Minister Sam Basil, Gulf Governor Havila Kavo, Inter-Government Relations Minister Mark Maipakai, Health Minister  Jamie Maxtone-Graham, Gazelle MP Malakai Tabar and Bougainville Affairs Minister Steven Kamma.
Namah told the soldiers, who surrendered 44 guns and ammunition, he would present the instruments of amnesty to cabinet and assured them they would be signed by the governor-general by the end of the day.
“I don’t just say, I do,” he told the estimated 200 soldiers who had gathered on the parade ground.
“I have directed my lawyers to prepare
the instruments and I will bring them
to cabinet today.
“There is only one government in Papua New Guinea – the O’Neill-Namah government.”
Namah also called on the soldiers to put their country first in their duties.
The soldiers pledged their support and loyalty to the O’Neill-Namah Government and to uphold the Constitution.
They also pledged not to recognise any person who claimed to be the legitimate government apart from the O’Neill-Namah government.
Namah said the handover of the weapons demonstrated that peace and normalcy was now restored within the PNGDF.
During the parade, Agwi declared Maj Freddy Aile as lieutenant colonel. He will replace Kari as commanding officer of Taurama barracks.
Police were seeking legal advice over laying more charges against Sasa for false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty.
The penalties for inciting mutiny are severe and, if found guilty, Sasa could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lawyer Tiffaney Twivey charged with contempt

Lawyer Tiffaney Twivey has just been charged with contempt today apparently along with the entire O'Neill/Namah National Executive Council because she gave advice on the amendments to the Prime Minister and NEC Act.
"They say it was-sub judice," she said tonight.
"This is complete rubbish - the amendments covered completely different issues than the court case.
"It is an act of desperation - and not to hide what you think."
Twivey added: "My firm - in documents signed by me - filed contempt documents last Tuesday, January 24,  charging Arthur Somare and Peter Ipatas for contempt for offering a bribe of K200,000 to Police Commissioner's lawyer Alice Kimbu in return for her signing interim consent orders which would allow Fred Yakasa to be Police Commissioner until the substantive case is heard. 
"She refused and informed the State. 
"I filed the documents on behalf of the State and Parliament. 
" David Dotaona (Yakasa's lawyer) and Yakasa were arrested by the police over this and charged with 'attempting to pervert the course of justice'. 
"My clients have charged Somare and Ipatas with civil contempt.
"I am in Australia,  returning tomorrow."

O'Neill/Namah government thanked for help to jails

The O’Neill /Namah government has been thanked for allocating a total of K97.4 million under the 2012 budget appropriations covering both the re-current and development components of budget to the Correctional Services Department, K9.6m for the 2012 election component and K5m for jail maintenance in the second 2011 Supplementary budget.
First secretary to the Minister for Correctional Services (CS) Smith Sagao expressed this recently on behalf of Minister Sailon Beseo in Goroka during a ceremony to mark the completion of five renovated CIS houses at the Bihute Jail.
 Sagao said the department would be using the K9.6m election component of the budget to participate in the 2012 national elections in which 400 servicemen and women were required to be engaged in election duties.
The department will also utilise the 2012 budget effectively to implement the recommendations of the three independent reports by Price Water House Coopers, the National Security Advisory Council and the International Red Cross and Crescent Movement, respectively highlighting CIS reform, security and humanitarian issues.
The recommendations from these will be implemented through the newly-established Transitional Management Committee to reform CS and make the budget work.
“Effective service delivery is the focus of the O’Neill/Namah Government, and like all organisations, CIS has its own success and failures, however the new Minister is looking at improving service delivery within the department’s rank and file,” Sagao said.
He said Beseo’s first move to bring reform into CS was the endorsement and appointment by the National Executive Council of the new CIS acting Commissioner Martin Balthazar.
“Balthazar and his team were tasked apart from implementing the recommendations of the three independent reports, to work on amending the existing CIS Act to include payment of pensions to retired CIS officers, setting up of the Prison Industries Authority as a business arm of CS and rebuild/re-construct physical facilities of the jails,” Sagao said.
He further thanked the O’Neill/ Namah government for making available K4.6 million to cater for the CS officers' 7.6% salary increment late last year.
The occasion was witnessed by the CIS acting Commissioner Balthazar, contractor Kavare and jail commanders from the highlands region and Lae's Buimo jail.

Fives new houses for jail staff in Goroka

Correctional Service officers and jail commanders around the country were urged to focus on their primary role of looking after prisoners rather than involving in other activities outside their line of duties and abusing properties and their privileges.
Acting Correctional Service Commissioner, Martin Balthazar expressed these during a mini ceremony to mark the completion of five officer’s houses at Goroka’s Bihute Jail last Friday.
From right are CS Minister’s first secretary Smith Sagao, CS Acting Commissioner Martin Balthazer, managing director of Noru Supplies Patrick Kavare and CS executive officer to the office of the Commissioner, Superintendent David Melange and the Bihute Jail Commander Superintendent Simon Laken inspecting one of the renovated houses

He said unlike other government departments, the CIS staff have been enjoying free housing, transport, electricity, and water at the Commissioner’s discretion and these can be abolished if staff were seen to be abusing them.
“On top of these existing privileges, the O’Neill / Namah government is giving salary increment, free education, free medical service, no tax for workers receiving K10,000 per annum and below, and I do not see any reasons why officer should not look after prisoners,” Balthazer said.
His comments follows the escape of 22 prisoners from the Bihute jail last Monday, of whom 19 were remandees awaiting trial.  
He said the breakout was allegedly caused as all attention was focused on the death of a female officer and also the delay in announcing the promotion of officers.
Balthazar said the reasons were unacceptable as security for the prisoners should be the paramount importance and concern of the officers and promotions was not a big issue as it was an ongoing administrative process and also that they were already enjoying more privileges.
He warned officers that they would pay a fine of K200 for minor offences and K1,000 or face dismissal for committing major offences.
“Any appeals will have to go to the National Court as Parliament has dismissed the CS Appeals Tribunal in October 2011,” Balthazar said.

Commencement of New Ireland province community projects

Newcrest Mining Ltd and the New Ireland provincial government have announced the commencement of three key projects in New Ireland to improve community health, education facilities and infrastructure.
 The three high impact projects in New Ireland are to be funded by Newcrest Mining Ltd in partnership with the Governor of New Ireland Province, Sir Julius Chan.
New Ireland Governor sir Julius Chan (left) and Newcrest country manager Peter Aitsi at Palie

 Newcrest Mining country manager, Peter Aitsi, said the three agreed projects were the first of five to be funded by Newcrest. 
 “As a gesture of ‘goodwill’ to the people of New Ireland, Newcrest is making available K2 million to fund high value impact projects which align with the New Ireland Provincial Government priority areas,” Aitsi said.
 “The funding for these projects is above and beyond the requirements within existing agreements, demonstrating Newcrest’s desire to engage in effective partnerships with its key stakeholders.”
 The three projects are:

1.      Funding for an additional doctor under the Australian Doctors International Memorandum of Agreement with the New Ireland Provincial Government (NIPG).  This funding amounts to AUD$70,000 each year for three years or approximately K163, 000 per year, or K490,000 over the three years.
2.      Providing concrete surfacing over the Namatanai (Moronai) Bridge and associated embankment work. Project budget K400,000.
3.      Connecting and commissioning an existing generator and undertaking reticulation of the power system to Namatanai High School. Project budget K300,000.
It was also agreed that Newcrest Mining Ltd technical staff would work with the Public Works New Ireland to fully assess the scope for the Namatanai Bridge and Namatanai High School projects as well as to reconfirm the budgets to complete the projects to the required specifications. Sir Julius met with Aitsi last week after the adjournment of Parliament.  Their discussions led to the first three projects being signed off. During the meeting Aitsi reaffirmed Newcrest’s commitment to building a long and productive relationship with the NIPG.
Sir Julius in supporting the partnership said “These projects indicate a new desire for a more co-operative platform between Newcrest and the New Ireland Provincial Government.
“The projects will positively impact the lives of the People of New Ireland Province and signal a renewal of the economic and commercial life of the Province”.
Newcrest operates the Lihir Gold Mine in the New Ireland province.
“Getting agreement to commence three of the five projects is excellent news”, Aitsi said.
 “Newcrest and NIPG through these projects will target important areas such as health, education and infrastructure. 
“This joint effort will see the conversion of our efforts into projects with meaningful impact.”
The remaining two projects will target the key area of health and are expected to be finalised soon.

Pardoned mutineers a dangerous precedent


The military I joined before independence was a professional outfit .
After 1975, general discipline in the PNG Defence Force was very tough. 
Every servicemen knew the military regulations and what the overall consequences for serious breaches of service discipline - such as being involved in a military mutiny was. 
Not today!

News has just reached the streets that by this afternoon we will soon know of some rogue soldier's demand for a pardon, as a result of last weeks' mutunity.
It seems certain now that the authorities will most likely give the soldiers who breached serious regulations of the PNGDF what they are demanding for.

If the soldiers involved in last weeks' mutuny are going to be pardened by this afternoon, then both the government and the defence hierachy will have then all compromised themselves. 
This unprecedented decision alone will also greatly undermined the PNGDF command position and its future efforts to strengthen general discipline within all defence communities.

The bottom-line is: it is now open-slatter for anyone in the PNGDF (and the Royal PNG Constabulary) to be rebelious, disobey superior orders and take the law into their own hands...knowing they will always be pardoned by their own government?

A dangerous precedent has now been set by the powers-that-be!