Kantha’s appointment illegal, says Minister

Minister for Immigration and Border Security, Westly Nukundi Nukundj, has responded to events surrounding the position of former Chief Migration Officer, Solomon Kantha.

Minister Nukundj said the Office of the State Solicitor has not given the legal clearance for the appointment of Kantha as Chief Migration Officer citing serious flaws and omissions and there was no valid contract of employment between him and the State, as his appointment was illegal.

Nukundj said he was not on the shortlist of candidates recommended by Ministerial Executive Appointment Committee (MEAC) at that material time.

Because of the breach in the appointment process under the annulled Public Service (Management) Act 2014 and the Regulatory Statutory Authorities (Appointment to Certain Offices) Act 2014 and its Regulations, the State Solicitor was unable to give legal clearance to the contract.

The State Solicitor then advised the Government that the appointment be revoked and the position be re-advertised.

“As the Minister responsible, I complied with the advice of the State Solicitor. NEC revoked the appointment of Solomon Kantha and made an appointment for an acting Chief Migration Officer for three months whilst the position is re-advertised so that anyone can apply, including Mr. Kantha himself,” stated the Minister.

“This is the best decision so far within the spirit of the law and transparent.

“Mr Kantha was not locked out of office as he claims. For reasons known to himself, he came early in the morning at around 6am on Saturday (7th December 2019) and removed some sensitive files in three suitcases and it’s all on record as captured by CCTV camera and on access record,” said the Minister.

“His actions are highly suspicious when we have highly sensitive cases now before the court involving Tasion Group and the State, Paladin investigations, visa fraud cases involving foreigners and other criminal cases of corruption and abuse of office.”

Nukundj said to make matters worse, the former CMO brought in police Mobile Squad 2 members and intimidated staff and caused a commotion on December 9th.

“Such actions are totally unprofessional in nature.

“NEC acknowledged the successful implementation of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA) by Immigration and Citizenship Authority. However, the former CMO defied lawful instructions of the Government through the portfolio Minister on the management and security arrangements of the East Lorengau Refugees Transit Centre after Paladin engagement ended on the 31/11/2019.

“The former CMO’s failure to provide a status report on the RRA in terms of physical, contractual and financial aspects are considered serious. The Australian taxpayers’ money is used and there needs to be some level of transparency in the conduct of business so that the Government of PNG and Australia have a visibility over the successful implementation of RRA.

“We all have to respect the process, the NEC decision and the advice of the State Solicitor. After all, this is public office and it does not belong to one person or group.

“As the Minister responsible I now officially congratulate and welcome the newly gazetted acting Chief Migration Officer - Mr Robert Bara Kennedy.”

(Former Chief Migration Officer, Solomon Kantha)

Press release