Former PNG Defence Force Commander, Major General Jerry Singirok, has issued a stark warning that the Exxon-Mobil LNG project could lead to a civil war in PNG bigger than the Bougainville crisis.
“If they are not careful with what is happening in the LNG project area, the situation there can be much larger and far worse than Bougainville,” says the man who masterminded the departure of mercenaries hired by the Government to put down the Bougainville rebellion 13 years ago.
“My greatest fear right now is that we are now setting the stage for another Bougainville crisis in Southern Highlands because all the right conditions are there”.
Singirok says the government has failed to heed lessons about allowing foreign security companies to work in PNG, especially in big resource projects.
“Now with the LNG project in the Southern Highlands, the Government has allowed developers to bring in foreign-owned security companies [like G4S, the world’s largest security company, which has recently established itself in PNG] that have no appreciation of the local customs, cultures and the people.
“These companies are dismantling the police and Defence Force by recruiting their best men to work on the project sites with promises of better pay and conditions,” Gen Singirok said.
“With lousy pay and service conditions, police and Defence Force personnel are living below poverty line. That is why they are taking up offers to work as security personnel for foreign-owned security companies at the LNG project,” Gen Singirok said.
“Has anyone done any due diligence checks on these foreign security companies?” he asked.
Gen Singirok said the foreign-owned security companies came here with one purpose, to use maximum force against landowners or anyone who tried to frustrate work on the project.
“The presence of foreign-owned security companies in PNG poses a great threat to the country.
“I want to know what their rules of engagement are, what types of firepower they have and who authorised them to have high-powered firearms.
“The use of foreign private security companies happens in countries where the state has failed to provide the needed security.
“Conditions are ripe for a major crisis if the Government is not careful.
“Firstly, there is a serious breakdown of law and order in Southern Highlands province right now.
“Secondly is the massive build-up of illegal firearms as a result of lack of control by State law enforcement agencies to contain the influx of these firearms.
“Thirdly is the lack of border control on the PNG-Indonesia border as well as the PNG-Australian border.
“The fourth issue is the obvious lack of Government investment in Defence Force, police and Correctional Services.
“These are the concerns that all add up to what I call a very serious threat to our national security by governments in office,” Gen Singirok said.
Archive for politcians
Peter Jackson writes: THE PNG PARLIAMENT has weakened the investigative powers of the Ombudsman Commission and diluted politicians’ accountability for spending government funds.
It has established a so-called ‘parliamentary ombudsman committee’ that will make inquiries of its own.
This removes the independent power of the Commission to investigate matters such as politicians’ and departmental heads’ travel and the disbursement of regional funds.
All the politicians in the House were in on the act, voting 83-0 to amend the section of the Constitution empowering the Commission to issue directives to ministers and heads of departments.
Section 27(4) allows the Ombudsman to issue directives to prevent payments from public funds to these officeholders if it feels there is impropriety.
In the past, the Commission has used this provision to stop MPs taking overseas trips when it felt the trips were a waste of public funds and has prevented the Finance Department issuing cheques if it felt the motives were political.
The Commission froze the RESI (Rehabilitation Education Sector Infrastructure) funds last year after allegations that millions of kina were misappropriated.
It has been alleged that RESI funds were misused and diverted away from Kerevat national high school, an issue covered extensively by PNG Attitudeearlier this year.
Introducing the amendments as a private motion, Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina said section 27(4) had been used by the Ombudsman many times to stop cheques, thus preventing the implementation of government policy.
“We want to make it very clear that the action of the Ombudsman in issuing such directives is wrong,” he said.
Mr Maladina said there had been many physical confrontations between officers of the Ombudsman and PNG leaders at the international airport, as the ‘leaders’ sought to take trips that the Ombudsman considered inappropriate.
Let last year, an assassination attempt was made on the life of the Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek.The gunmen were caught but their motive has not been esablished.
YOU CAN READ MORE FROM PETER JACKSON ON HIS PNG ATTITUDE BLOG – http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/
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.
Who is the government in power?
Is it the National Alliance or has Prime Minister Michael Somare, abandoned by his own Ministers and family, sold out to Pangu Party and former Deputy Prime Minister, Chris Haiveta?
These are the scandalous revelations provided by a prominent government minister in a hard hitting interview.
The Minister (who did not want his name revealed) claims NA insiders will confirm that Sir Michael is hell bent on staying in power and is paving the way to form a Pangu led Coalition because his own party won’t nominate him to be Prime Minister again.
Below is a transcript of the interview
“…the revolt by senior National Alliance men whether they’re governors or ministers is open knowledge [in NA]. His lack of support of his own NA ministers and his support of Pangu is open knowledge and he’s doing it. He’s openly doing this. So that can come out. This should be brought to the attention of people. He’s openly supporting Pangu and his chief advisor is Haiveta… Chris Haiveta and everyone knows that.
“The Prime Minister does not have the support of many of his senior ministers.
“He’s not listening to the advice of his deputies and he’s doing whatever he pleases. And the Prime minister is doing this for his own benefit. This is happening because he doesn’t believe that his own part will re-endorse him for another five years at the National [Alliance] convention in August.
“And his own family do not support him. So he’s lost; he has lost the support of key elements within his own party.
“In his office he’s got Pangu party advisors. People like Chris Haiveta who are dictating to him what he should do. Every member of NA… every parliamentary member of NA is concerned about it but nobody will talk out. The public have got to become aware of this. So when Mekere talks about Kitchen Cabinet, it’s not a Kitchen Cabinet the cabinet is the Prime Ministers advisors and his ministers are having no say. And his ministers are more disenchanted by the day. And now, what he’s doing is moving towards Pangu.
“You know it has come to the stage where I have to do it because the other don’t have the guts to do this and when other NA members see it, they will be very happy.
“[What will happen next] depends on the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the law on political party integrity. If the Supreme Court declares that is unconstitutional, you will see this government fall in a matter of weeks. The government is trying to find ways whereby they don’t have to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court.
“The Prime Minster is of the opinion that the Supreme Court has got nothing to do with it, it depends on Parliament. But very few people will agree with that. Failing that, I see even the congress, the National Congress is being held up in Banz. The people have to come from all over the country to go there and they won’t. And he’s banking on not everyone being there. He’s playing a very, very dangerous game.
“He has put in a whole lot of political appointees and these appointees are his robots. They do whatever he wants them to do.
“I think there are regional deputies that won’t support him for another term. You know, the regional deputies for Momase may not support him for another term. The regional deputy of the Southern Region, may not support him for another term the regional deputy of the Highlands may not support him. I would say two of the three if not three of the three won’t support him by the time August comes around.
“He’s got people like very highly respected people, people like Leo Dion. Peter Humphreys. People like that who are in open revolt. He has been told to change his ministers. He won’t do it because I think he’s promised so many people ministries that he’s got himself into a dilemma.
“All these secretaries that have been put in there are not working. And there’s massive, massive wastage in government, misappropriation, wastage and lack of policy implementation they don’t care about.
“The Prime Minster has walked out on us [National Alliance] and he’s keeping quiet and we all know about it and nobody’s talking about it. So it’s got to be brought out into the open. He’s made serious commitments to Pangu and he’s paving the way to join Pangu and run Pangu.”
TRANSPARENCY International PNG (TIPNG) has slammed the government for its lack of repect for the ordinary people of Papua New Guinea and its ‘don’t care’ attitude about missing public finances, in comments reported in The National.
TI has also highlighted how the government’s tolerance of wide spread corruption translates into the non delivery of services to the vast majority of the population and foreshadows how most of the proceeds from major new projects like LNG will likely be stolen.
Transparency International’s concerns have been fueled by the findings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which has documented the collapse of the Governments’ financial management systems and revealed a complete lack of accountability within the public service.
TIPNG chairman Peter Aitsi said: “It is very sad to learn from the PAC that from the 1,000 inquiries carried out by the PAC into the operations of various Government agencies, hospital boards, and trust accounts, most have not complied with lawful requirements. “The Government must wake up. The PAC has sounded the alarm and the National Executive Council (NEC) must address this situation as its highest priority. “We understand the various PAC reports have been sitting with the NEC gathering dust. “If this is true, then indeed this is a cause for national shame.”
He said it was totally unacceptable that the Government, particularly the NEC, turned a blind eye to the reports. “What does it tell our people when one of the highest decision-making bodies in our country allows public money to be mismanaged and stolen. “It creates doubts and the people are asking, don’t they care? Are they involved? “This state of affairs suggests the Government has no respect for the people it is sworn to serve and is certainly not serious about ensuring that proper procedures and regulations, particularly the Financial Management Act, are adhered to by all agencies in a transparent manner.”
Mr Aitsi said such lack of action by the Government continued to feed and encourage more unlawful practices, translating into non-delivery of goods and services to ordinary Papua New Guineans. The PAC reports and the statement issued must resonate with the key people in Government that we are heading on a dangerous path. In the words of the PAC member and Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Kela-Smith, the loss of public funds as a result of corruption could be as high as K3 billion kina.
“If these corrupt networks are able to steal K3 billion of public money within our current economic levels, how much more are they likely to steal when the revenue for the LNG start flowing if we do not take firm and decisive action to fix our Government systems?”
MP Sam Basil says the findings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are a sign that Papua New Guinea is a “failed state”.
The PAC, of which Basil is a member, has found that accountability and transparency in the use of public money within all but five of 1000 government agencies has collapsed.
Just one example is the 100 million kina ($A40 million) missing from the National Forest Authority, the body overseeing and administering logging permits for an industry labelled in 2006 “as 70 per cent illegal”.
PAC Chairman Timothy Bonga has said he is shocked by the poor result.
“The whole functional system of the (Forest) Authority has collapsed and the original finding of the Auditor General that 100 million kina ($A40 million) simply disappeared and the (Forest) Authority had no ability to audit or trace these funds,” he said.
“In total, we have made inquiry into 1000 agencies, each examined from 2003 to 2008.
“The findings have shown that the management and accountability by our public servants and the government has collapsed miserably”.
Bonga said the Bank of PNG, Institute of Public Administration, Post PNG, Goroka Base Hospital and Alotau Hospital were the only government entities well-managed.
The worrying state of affairs came from a PAC inquiry examining 33 government departments, 25 subsidiary agencies including 19 provincial treasuries, 19 provincial governments over 400 districts, 19 urban authorities, 19 hospital boards, 116 statutory corporations and all trust accounts.
In September 2008, the PAC found most government department heads did not even know how to make the simplest of bank transactions.
In 2008, the PAC estimated that over the past 10 years more than a $1 billion kina ($A400 million) had gone missing from PNG finance coffers.
Prominent commentators have responded to the announcement that legal firm Gadens will no longer represent Bank South Pacific because of violent attacks on its lawyers with grave concerns about the future for Papua New Guinea.
Former High Court judge and prominent environmentalist, Brian Brunton has described the situation in PNG as ‘institutionalised disorder’.
Institutionalized disorder, he writes, is a theory of political science originating in West African but which is now quite generalized and can be seen in Papua New Guinea and also Central America (with drug-cartels) and in Israel (where right-wing settlers in the West bank steal Arab land).
A key feature of institutionalized disorder is the fact that disorder is maintained by elite thieves primarily for their own benefit, but consequently all criminals are able to take advantage.
At the same time the Post Courier newspaper’s has spoken of the crucial role a fair and independent judiciary plays in maintaining democracy. Where you see a nation’s judiciary in trouble, you will see a nation in trouble, they say, “for without honest and fearless judges, magistrates and lawyers, you will find people cringing in fear of those who rule over them”.
Is that now the situation we have reached in Papua New Guinea – are we living in fear of those we have elected to govern us?
Certainly our elected politicians, with one or two rare exceptions, do not appear to have any pretence that they have been given power in order to serve the people. Rather, they see their elevation to Parliament as an opportunity to grab as much for themselves and their cronies as they possibly can while sometimes inadvertently, and sometimes deliberately, destroying everything else in the process.