Monday, 5 June 2017

The struggle of O'Neill to keep himself in power means more corruption, borrowings and PNG towards bankruptcy

PNG got its independence in 1975 but the people are not democratically represented and corruption has limited its progress. Limited Preferential Voting (LPV) is practiced in PNG; distorted by vote buying. 

Vote buying is a type of campaign spending where votes are purchased. Financial or material incentives are presented to the voters in order to control the electoral outcome. 

The PNG government spent over PGK659 million on the 2012 elections, or around PGK200 per voter, the highest in the world (compared to the average of $5 USD [K16] per voter). In a truly democratic election, positions would be filled by those that represent the majority of the country’s desires. Because of vote buying, the positions are given to the wealthy rather than to those that would represent the people’s needs and desires; these wealthy officials represent only the interests of the minority in PNG.

In addition to the vote buying, corruption has plagued the PNG government. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has been adamant about holding on to his power, while some view him as a sort of dictator unwilling to abdicate his throne. Mr. O’Neill was first chosen by parliament to be acting Prime Minister in August of 2011 following Sir Michael (the founding father of independent Papua New Guinea). Sir Michael was declared to no longer be fit to hold the position due to illness. Then in August of 2012, Parliament endorsed Mr. O’Neill as Prime Minister.

After Transparency International ranked PNG as one of the most corrupt countries in the world in 2012, Mr. O’Neill declared cracking down on corruption would be a priority of the government. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to approve the formation of an anti-corruption task force, also known as Taskforce Sweep Team led by Sam Koim. He hoped this would help draw in foreign investors.

In June of 2014, Mr. O’Neill was accused of fraud by the anti-corruption task force; they issued a warrant for his arrest. He then challenged the accusation in court. In November of 2014, he was referred to a tribunal of judges over separate allegations of misconduct in office in relation to a $1.3 billion loan. The hearing was scheduled for January of 2015.

The PNG government has prevented anti-corruption police from engaging a private law firm and an Australian barrister from arguing their case to arrest Prime Minister O’Neil. Matthew Damaru, director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate (NFACD), and his deputy, Timothy Gitua, have been seeking the arrest of Mr. O’Neill on corruption charges since June of 2014. Mr. O’Neill, however, obtained a court order preventing their warrant from being executed. The Supreme Court ordered Mr. Damaru and Mr. Gitua to seek approval from the Attorney General in order to continue using the private law firm Jema Lawyers, and Australian barrister, Greg Egan, in their fight against the court order protecting Mr. O’Neill. The Attorney General, Mr. Ano Pala, however, is also guilty of corruption.

After turning himself in to police, Mr. Pala was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice. According to police, Mr. Pala allegedly tried to frustrate their efforts to pursue official corruption charges against Prime Minister O’Neill. He was charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice, attempting to pervert the course of justice, and abusing his office. Mr. Pala was installed as Attorney General in 2014 after his predecessor was fired by Mr. O’Neill following O’Neill’s arrest warrant. Police allege Mr. Pala improperly interfered in the case against Mr. O’Neill and other senior government officials after he was appointed to Attorney General in 2014. Mr. Pala is believed by police to have misused public funds and interfered with attempts to arrest Mr. O’Neill.

Denying any wrongdoing, Mr. O’Neill disbanded the anti-corruption task force (Taskforce Sweep) in 2014, effectively ending its investigation into the matter. The National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate (NFACD) picked up where Taskforce Sweep left off. NFACD found more evidence of corruption by senior government officials, issuing a warrant in July 2015 for the arrest of Treasury Secretary, Dairi Vele. 

Mr. Damaru brought contempt charges against the new Police Commissioner, Gari Baki, for allegedly convincing a magistrate to stay the Vele warrant. Police Commissioner Baki responded by issuing an arrest warrant for Mr. Damaru. 

Mr. Damaru then hired Australian lawyers Greg Egan and Terence Lamber to fight the charges; however, they suddenly found themselves issued with a travel ban by the PNG Department of Immigration. 

All these, as you can see is happening to give cover up PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on his official corruption allegation against himself with a payment to Paul Paraka Lawyers amounting to K71 million.

To be a politician in PNG is to become overnight millionaire. You will see many candidates spending millions of kina just to get into power, one would wonder how would they recoup the spending in millions they spend during elections??

Another would also wonder why people support corrupted leaders, and its simple - they (people) benefited from the takings from the corrupted money so they continue to stay with him no matter how big a corruption scandal is. These group of people would go around and protect each other and their political cronies.    

They try their best, especially to dish out a lot of money during election to win back the government they benefit from so that they will continue to enjoy while the majority suffers. 

In doing so, the society is dividing into two sets and so is the for the politicians and their cronies and one for the ordinary citizens. 

The country is rigged with corruption and its development potential is in stake. More borrowing will see the country in high debt-level and eventually towards bankruptcy. 

PNG is currently spending more than it can generate, getting more loans from lenders who see hope in its PNG LNG project. This borrowings will tie the LNG proceedings into those loans and the people will continue to suffer and die.

Photos: People burning Peter O'Neill's party banners, caps and shirts to show frustration over his government.

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