Somare looking increasingly corrupt and out of touch
It has been a bad seven days for Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Michael Somare.
Firstly, last Wednesday, he was recommended for further investigation by the police under the criminal code for his unlawful conduct in engineering the escape of Julian Moti from lawful custody.
Then it became apparent that the Prime Minister had also failed to cooperate with the Ombudsman Commission investigation of the Moti affair and that he had attempted to prevent senior civil servants from giving evidence – leading the Ombudsman Commission and the media to claim a cover-up orchestrated by the PM.
To make things worse, on Friday of last week Somare was further accused of having compromised sea safety by unlawfully interfering in the appointment of the Chairman of the National Maritime Safety Authority and fostering on the nation a candidate who was eminently unsuitable for the role.
But it is the Prime Ministers reaction to these unfavorable findings from PNGs respected and independent Ombudsman Commission that says most about his lack of respect for the institutions of government and his arrogant disdain for the people of Papua New Guinea.
Rather than promising to cooperate with the proper authorities who are trying to do their constitutional jobs, the Prime Minister has chosen to attack them and try and destroy their credibility.
The Prime Minister has said he finds the “conduct of the Ombudsman Commission to be calculating, mischievous and lacking in transparency” and that its motive as appearing to be “sinister and reflecting a lack of objectivity and fairness in dealing with the matter at hand”
The Prime Minister seems to be forgetting that it was he who refused to cooperate with the Ombudsman Investigation in the Julian Moti affair; that it was he who issues an order trying to prevent senior civil servants from giving evidence; and that it was he who insisted Hamish Sharp be appointed Chair of the Maritime Safety Authority at a time when Sharp had been heavily criticized by the Authority over the sinking of one of his vessels and was suing the authority over its findings and for K1 million for defamation.
Further the Commission, after a 3 year inquiry and based on a 70 page report and substantial evidence including sworn testimony from numerous senior individuals including the former acting PNG Defence Force Commander and police Director of Legal Services, that it was Prime Minister Somare who unlawfully ordered Julian Moti’s release from custody and his escape from PNG on an air force plane.
The Ombudsman has also found that Somare coerced his Transport Minister to appoint Hamish Sharp as Chair of the Maritime Safety Board and that the appointment was made without due compliance with the law. Since his appointment in 2006 Mr Sharp has only called two board meetings “seriously impacting on safety for the travelling public and ships crews”.
By attacking the Ombudsman Commission the Prime Minister is giving his approval for every other senior leader to ignore the institutions of government and showing that he regards himself to be above the law.
Clearly PNG can make no progress in defeating endemic corruption while Michael Somare remains Prime Minister.