"Prove allegations against Minister:" PM

Prime Minister, James Marape, says he will not sack Trade & Commerce Minister, William Duma, based on mere allegations which imply that corrupt practices may have been conducted.

He said these allegations need to be proven.

The allegations refer to K33million (US$10.3 million) payment by Horizon Oil to a PNG shell company for its 10 per cent interest in Petroleum Retention License (PRL) 21 made 10 years ago.

The Australian Financial Review articles questioned the role of William Duma, who was then Petroleum Minister, and private Lawyer, Simon Ketan, who then owned the company, Elevala Energy, which sold its shares to Horizon.

Prime Minister Marape said while the articles imply there may have been misconduct in the awarding of PRL 21 and subsequent transaction, there must be evidence to prove the claims.

“As in the case in our judiciary system, you are innocent until proven guilty,” said Marape.

“And so, I can’t as Prime Minister, just because an allegation has been made, terminate someone who works with me, these allegations need to be proven.”

Marape said in the meantime there is nothing stopping the Ombudsman Commission or Police from carrying out their duties.

“At the moment nothing stops Ombudsman from carrying out their constitutional duty, nothing stops policemen from doing their duties. Just because Minister Duma is in Cabinet doesn’t mean this process stops; just because I’m Prime Minister doesn’t mean this process doesn’t continue. This process is always alive. But this process will not run its full course itself without hard evidence,” said the Prime Minister.

On Friday Police Commissioner, David Manning, announced that they are closely monitoring developments following the articles were published.

Manning said Police would investigate if an official complaint was laid with police.

Trade and Commerce Minister Wiliam Duma responded to the allegations on the floor of Parliament, stating that there was no impropriety on his part and has collected documentation to prove his innocence.

Duma has also stated that he has not benefitted in any way from the deal done between the two commercial entities of Horizon Oil and Elevala Energy.

Cedric Patjole