TIPNG says laws of PNG apply to all

Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) is gravely concerned by ongoing efforts to prevent constitutional office holders from being questioned by fraud and corruption officers.

Chairman of TIPNG, Lawrence Stephens made the call for all responsible agencies and agents of the nation to step up to the challenges.

 “We have the public records and reports of numerous Commissions of Inquiry (CoI) . Recommendations have been made that named individuals should be referred to the police fraud squad for investigation.

“Why are we still fighting to stop these individuals being investigated? We saw the closure of the Fraud Squad Office and the suspension of officers. Now we see the Police Commissioner creating a ‘vetting committee’ to oversee the work of the fraud squad when it is dealing with ‘high profile’ individuals,” said Stephens.

He went on to say that most of the people recommended by the Commission of Inquiry reports for referral to the police fraud squad would be ‘high profile’.

“They are also well placed to make sure that they do not face the full force of the law now being directed at UPNG students.”

“The establishment of a ‘vetting committee’ to supervise fraud and anti-corruption investigations of ‘high profile people’, particularly at a time of crisis, has to be a step backwards.

“It creates a perception that VIP’s will be treated differently and that the work of the fraud squad will be supervised when it involves VIP’s. This move undermines a basic principle of citizens’ equality before the law,” said Stephens.

Stephens urged the Commissioner of Police, Garry Baki, to reconsider this provocative decision as it goes against the spirit of the PNG Constitution, giving preferential treatment to ‘high profile’ individuals while the rest of Papua New Guineans are subjected to a different set of rules.

“TIPNG maintains the view that an Attorney General charged with an offence is obliged to stand aside from the office while he defends himself before the law.

 “TIPNG is one of many parties asking for people of good will to join in the call for the Prime Minister to step up to meet the challenges created by evidence which has surfaced.

“It is a moral issue, to honour the integrity of the highest office in the land and an opportunity for the Prime Minister to demonstrate his commitment to combatting corruption.

 “Let’s face the truth. Individuals named by a CoI do not want to be investigated. Let us all dust of the reports and understand what drives the reluctance to step up proudly and assist the officers of the law to do their duty,” said Stephens.

Troy Taule