15 Nov 2006

PNG PM confirms suspensions of three top beaureaucrats, criticises Australia

8:15 pm on 15 November 2006

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, has confirmed the suspensions of the heads of the country's defence and police forces, and the government's chief secretary.

The three have been suspended over their alleged involvement in the escape of fugitive Australian Julian Moti, the suspended Solomon Islands Attorney General.

Mr Moti was smuggled from PNG to the Solomon Islands aboard a PNG military plane last month when Australia was seeking his extradition on child sex charges.

Sir Michael has confirmed that the Defence Force Commander, Peter Ilau, the acting Police Commissioner, Tom Kulunga, and the government's Chief Secretary, Joshua Kalinoe, have been suspended so investigations can proceed unobstructed.

The Prime Minister accuses Australian advisers in PNG of collaborating with local police and judicial officials to illegally arrest Mr Moti, saying an investigation has found his original arrest and detention were unconstitutional and illegal.

Sir Michael says the arrest was carried out without a warrant and other extradition procedures were not followed correctly.

He has also criticised the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, for threatening to cut development aid to PNG under what he calls the pretext of concerns over good governance.

The prime minister says Aid and the Moti affair are separate issues, and voices concern that this saga may be indicative of Australia's new foreign policy of intervention in the Pacific and the Asia-Pacific region.