Micah Testifies

Former state minister, Ben Micah said he had absolutely nothing to do with the NEC submission during a cabinet meeting on 6th of March, 2014 when he was the State Enterprises Minister.

He was answering to questions raised by the members of the Inquiry if he had a role to play in the NEC submission on the controversial Union Bank of Switzerland loan (UBS) and related transactions made by the government.

Micah said as the then State Enterprises Minister he was responsible for coordinating the refinancing of the IPIC loan that was used to acquire the Government equity in the PNG LNG project.

“I was aware of the UBS loan to buy back our shares from the Arabs, IPIC. I was not aware that there was such loan to acquire 10 per cent shares from Oil Search.

The submission refers to the financing of the additional shares in Oil Search, it had nothing to do with IPIC because IPIC had already cleared the shares in Oil Search that the bond was taken out against. So I absolutely had nothing to do with the submission.”

According to Don Polye’s evidence submitted earlier before the COI, he said the NEC submission on March 6th 2014 was done by UBS.

“The cabinet paper was not drafted by the Treasury or not any State Entity for this matter. I do not think it was even prepared by Ben Micah who was the Minister responsible for State Enterprises.

“It was prepared by UBS and pushed down the throat of Papua New Guineans to the PNG cabinet to drive their business agenda that never served our interest”, added Polye.

During yesterday’s inquiry, Micah said Polye had asked for his support to block the submission.

“I told him, that this thing is being pushed by UBS and Oil Search and whoever it was.  There was pressure from Sydney Stock Exchange on the shares of Oil Search that had something to do with the decision by the PNG Government to acquire shares.

“So this submission and the subsequent NEC decision was a pre-empty strike by whoever was behind the whole deal to ambush the PNG people and Government through cabinet to give okay to the deal.”

Micah told the inquiry that it was a pity that the State no longer holds shares with Oil Search.

Jemimah Sukbat