2 Oct 2007

PNG PM home safely despite rumours of arrest plans by military over Moti affair

3:01 pm on 2 October 2007

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, has arrived home amid heavy police security after the army denied it had plans to arrest him and charge him with treason.

Sir Michael was met by PNG's Police Commissioner Gari Baki on his return from the U.N. General Assembly in New York this morning and was flanked by a police escort as he left the airport in Port Moresby.

The Defence Force Commander, Commodore Peter Ilau, had earlier dismissed rumours that the military planned to arrest Sir Michael over the Moti affair.

Julian Moti, who is the attorney general in Solomon Islands, was secretly flown out of PNG on a military aircraft in 2006, avoiding extradition to Australia.

A PNG defence force report into the escape found Sir Michael and others had been involved and that charges should be laid.

He has denied any involvement and has said he will legally challenge the defence report, which is now in the hands of PNG's defence minister.

Papua New Guinea's former military commander, Major-General Jerry Singirok, says there's no justification for PNGDF soldiers to arrest the Prime Minister.

Major-General Singirok says while there is concern among government departments and the PNGDF over the way the Julian Moti case was handled, the matter should be left to debate on the floor of parliament.

He says it's highly unlikely that elements of the PNGDF may take action against the government as in the 1997 Sandline crisis when he was commander.

Major-General Singirok, under whom the military besieged parliament and forced the Prime Minister to resign, dismisses suggestions that the Sandline crisis could be seen as a precedent:

"You cannot equate Sandline with Moti. Now Moti is a situation where rogue elements of the PNGDF without instructions - so they say - flew an international fugitive over international air space using government properties. Now that is the issue."

Major-General Jerry Singirok