FOR most of the time since independence in 1975, Papua New Guinea enjoyed a vibrant democracy under the rule of law and with law-breakers dealt with as they should be.
But six years ago things begin to change as corruption moved to a new level, spreading into every government office.
At a time when the country was about to embrace the benefits of the largest liquefied natural gas project in the Pacific, the government was taken by force.
In a numbers game, the courts were effectively sidelined and Peter O’Neill stormed into the leadership.
The people – or those of them who understand such matters - were shocked by this defiance of the constitution. It was unprecedented and unbecoming behaviour at the country’s highest level and integrity, ethics and sensitivity to the rule of law were put to the sword.
In a Waigani courtroom on 29 March this year, a Supreme Court full bench ruled that the Ombudsman Commission has the power to investigate the office of the prime minister in respect of allegations relating to a K3 billion loan obtained from the Union Bank of Switzerland in 2014 to purchase 10% of the shares of Oil Search Limited.
O’Neill may believe that the Ombudsman Commission is adversely ‘derogatory’ of him but it was established by an Act of Parliament and is the statutory body instituted to ensure there are checks and balances on leaders, including the prime minister’s office.
The K3 million loan is not the only offshore loan that needs scrutinising, there are a couple of others too. I would nominate the K6 billion from Exim Bank of China, the K83 million Ialibu-Pangia Highway loan, the K223 million World Bank loan and the K3.5 billion Okuk Highway rehabilitation.
There are allegations that most of these loans were obtained without proper vetting or procedural oversight.
And the Paraka matter is still alive. Last week Mal Varitimos QC, representing the prime minister, made a submission to quash O’Neill’s arrest warrant in the Paraka saga. The decision of the court is due on Friday.
The 2012 Alotau Accord committed the government to establishing an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) but the last five years saw nothing but further promises. Certainly they did not see an ICAC and the new government after the election needs to get on with this.
Amongst the coalition partners in opposition, Pangu’s good governance policy is appealing. Pangu has said it wants constitutional office holders such as the chief justice, police commissioner and chief ombudsman to appoint ICAC officers.
Pangu Party leader Sam Basil’s declaration not to align with any MPs from People’s National Congress or its coalition partners, those who have run down the economy, in forming the next government is a bold stand. This looks even better when considering the need to fight corruption.
We do need to curb corruption that is so deeply rooted in our system of government and Pangu’s good governance policy would give us a good chance of doing this.
Source: Keith Jackson's PNG Attitude blog