11 Nov 2004

PNG Communications Minister hits back at critics over Econet reports

4:44 pm on 11 November 2004

Papua New Guinea's Public Enterprises Minister Puka Temu has hit out at media reports that telecommunications company Econet is embroiled in corruption.

The PNG government is expected to soon approve or shelve the proposed 51 percent sale of Telikom PNG to the African company Econet.

But the controversial sale process has been further shaken this week by reports that five Econet directors have been arrested for alleged business crimes in Zimbabwe.

There were subsequent calls by PNG's opposition as well as Port Moresby Catholic Archbishop Sir Brian Barnes for the government to halt the sale.

But Mr Temu says while the media has carried these statements about the Econet executives, the government is seeking information about the arrests from reliable, independent sources.

"And once they come, we'll form an opinion, but we know that not everything that comes through the media is true: local papers that source sources that we believe are not reputable. Look, what was the source of the information? The Zimbabwe Herald. And who believes President Mugabe? New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Australia? No, we don't believe that anymore."

Dr Puka Temu

Meanwhile, Econet executive Andrew Mikkelsen has denied reports that Econet executives were involved in corruption in Nigeria.

He says those arrested are directors of VMobile, a company in which Econet has a five percent stake, and are not executives of Econet.