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Thursday, September 13, 2007

PNG Court Judge likens the "Moti Report" to the USA "Watergate Scandal" before quashing Somare's application to nullify the PNGDF Inquiry

A Papua New Guinea National Court judge yesterday described the Julian Moti saga as Papua New Guinea’s version of the United States’ Watergate scandal.

Speaking before quashing Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and three others’ application to nullify the entire proceedings of the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) Moti Inquiry, Justice Bernard Sakora said their attempts to suppress the inquiry’s proceedings and final report conjured up images of the Watergate scandal.

He said the application was only aimed at protecting egos and not in the public interest.
“The reason (to suppress the report) has nothing to do with supporting or giving support to what I call in my judgment … I am trying to describe it with a word … I don’t think you can describe it in any other word except protecting huge egos … and I have it in my judgment … huge egos of olympic proportions,” Justice Sakora said.

Infuriated at the applicants’ failure to table a copy of the report since the start of the proceedings, the judge said the court went out of its way to get a copy to no avail.

The current Government’s practice in changing its views overnight on major policy decisions also came under fire, Justice Sakora describing it as a “dysfunctional system” that resulted in Sir Michael sacking Kavieng MP Martin Aini as Defence minister in the last government.

“With respect, the entire circumstances of the 10th of October 2006 flight to freedom or flight of fugitive from justice; the subsequent public uproar and the ineffective or absence of internal investigations by the PNGDF and the RPNGC (Royal PNG Constabulary); the NEC decision to have the public inquiry conducted under the Defence Act and the appointment of the board of inquiry and the proceedings of the inquiry all which found one easy victim – and that was the minister for defence who lost his job. The taking of the defence portfolio by the Prime Minister and the suppression of the report, all conjure up images reminiscent of the Watergate Affair in the United States – those of us who were alive in the 1970’s (are familiar with this). The Watergate Affair that led to the resignation of a president of the United States few steps ahead of impeachment. One can’t help but be reminded (that) the whole (Moti) saga is so reminiscent, for those of us who were around in the 1970’s,” he said.

Justice Sakora added that the Moti saga has evolved into a “blame game”, a topic which his favourite authors, Englishmen Frederick Forsyth and Jeffrey Archer, like to write about.

Picking out Sir Michael’s application, the judge was critcal of the Prime Minister “piggy backing” on the application for judicial review filed by senior PNGDF officers Captain Tom Ur, Colonel Vagi and former chief secretary to government Joshua Kalinoe. Sir Michael should have made a separate application to join the court proceedings initiated by Mr Kalinoe and the three soldiers; a process which Justice Sakora said was not followed.

The judge subsequently ruled that the application was an abuse of the court process and dismissed it with cost to the applicants.

Source: Post Courier

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