Arrest warrant for PNG PM considered valid
The head of Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption investigative unit Taskforce Sweep says a high profile conviction emphasises the legality of an arrest warrant against the prime minister.
The head of Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption investigative unit Taskforce Sweep says a high profile conviction emphasises the legality of an arrest warrant against the prime minister. The former police commissioner Geoffrey Vaki was this week convicted on contempt charges for his obstruction of an arrest warrant for prime minister Peter O'Neill last year. Mr O'Neill was wanted for questioning over his role in allegedly illegal state payments worth US$29 million to a law firm. The arrest warrant had been obtained by Taskforce Sweep which has subsequently been starved of operational funds. Its chairman Sam Koim spoke to Johnny Blades about the arrest warrant.
SAM KOIM: It's an initial step of the process but it doesn't mean anything. The prime minister or any other person for that reason who is subjected to that same process have their rights fully protected under the law, and the constitution demands that they are innocent until proven otherwise. So, it's just a process of law, yes.
JOHNNY BLADES: This arrest warrant for Peter O'Neill, is it still active?
SK: It's still active. It's just been stayed by the Supreme Court. But the decision by the national court, the chief justice, yesterday in finding the former police commissioner guilty of contempt means that the arrest warrant is without defect and has been validly obtained and can be enforced, executed and who ever stands in the way can be prosecuted for contempt. But at the moment we can't do anything because we've got a pending stay order.
JB: Are you saying that this would indicate that the court has found no defect in the arrest warrant so therefore the application for the review of the arrest warrant should follow suit?
SK: Yes. The application of a review of the stay order will follow suit, and we have filed applications to set aside the stay order.
JB: There's obviously a lot of pressures being brought to bear on the people who are working in this whole process about prosecuting fraud and corruption in your country. How's your job been? I know that last year you were under a lot of pressure. Has that continued into this year?
SK: Well, you see if you can deduce from events of recent past. We have been very successful both on the criminal front as well as on the leadership prosecutions; so many leaders being referred and a number of them dismissed from office, also some politicians prosecuted and jailed. We've got public servants and businesspeople jailed for fraud and corruption charges. We've actually placed a lot of people in an uncomfortable position and as a result they've reacted in all manner of ways to protect themselves.
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