Happy Christmas Teachers | Have You Got Your 10% Increment Government Promised You in 2013?

Many Papua New Guineans are looking forward to a good holiday. Some will travel home from towns and cities. Others will travel to see the bright lights of Lae and Port Moresby. Many will have stayed where they are. 

Cost of transportation and accommodation are very high. They may not be able to get through the holiday if they had not stayed back. One group of public servants are finding it really tough – the teachers. Their sentiments are shared on PNG Teachers on Facebook, a group of over 2500 teachers in the country. 

Unlike other public servants; teachers are poorly paid, overworked and often neglected at this time of the year. One of the main concerns they raised online was delay in Leave Fares. Though it is mandatory that eligible teachers are given their leave fares, the delay has been chronic and remains a yearly occurrence. 

Another yearly problem that affects our teachers is timely release of Boarding and Duty Allowances. Any teacher who does boarding duties throughout the year is entitled to this allowance. Why have many cry foul over non-payment? 

When Dr Puka Temu announced a Christmas Gift for the hard working members of parliament in November 2013, he also declared 7.5% increase for general public servants pay with a 2.5% concurrent increase to 2016. The MPs got their 7 % increase backdated to January 1st of 2013 are enjoying the other increases this year, too . But, the question of whether other public servants got their promised increment remains to be answered.

Teachers are not able to determine their pay grade. This is simply because many of them, especially the new graduates and teachers in remote locations, have not got their pay slips. Some may not even know what a pay slip looks like as they have never got one. 

So, how much are the teachers paid? The salaries are calculated by adjusting to a midpoint salary. In other words, an average is calculated from Pay Grades 1 to 12. The averages for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are K21 000, K23 100 and K25 410 respectively. This gives an impression of a total increase of 30% (7.5% x 3 yrs + 2.5% x 3 yrs) That means that the government would have been paying the teachers a 10% compounded increment between 2014 and 2016. That is a good news for teachers. 

Click here for teachers' pay structure. The challenge now is to ensure the government remains true to its promise to underpaid teachers. Teachers’ representatives from PNG Teachers Association have to highlight problem areas. There is never a better time to do it, than now. 

Put a stop to delays teachers face with getting their leave fares, ensure they get their boarding and duty allowances on time and get their pay slips to them where ever they are. Above all, the pay increments have to be evident in teachers’ pay. Have they got the increases for 2013 and 2014?

Beautiful POM, Why Are You Classified As The Most Dangerous One - You Still The Best

Pic: www.tripadvisor.ca
Port Moresby (POM) is a tough place to live and work, tougher for those with families. Every capital city has it problem, but POM's not controlled and contained. Crime and petty theft is often left unattended by law enforcement bodies, including civilians.

If one thing needs to change it must be the attitude of every person living in POM. Agree with Guise Kola, a commentator on Paitim Garamut, a Facebook discussion group. He said 

"Lets not talk about tourism and try our efforts in vain in a City and country so infested with petty crimes. How many times have we read (and) seen news about tourists being attacked and their personal artifacts stolen! Mobile phones, digital cameras, travel bags, money etc being stolen. Even there were accassions where tourists were being held up (and) raped and killed! 

Lets get our house in order (and) functional first. We have a very long to go with our petty insidious attitude. We need to develop our mind and fully understand how things are done in the first world and learn to emulate them before we start talking about tourism.

No tourist in his or her right mind wish to come to PNG knowing that s/he will be held up, raped or killed! Who in his or her right mind would do that?

Lets forget the talk on tourism and start developing our human capital and command basic law n order issues before other things!"

I completely agree with his point on developing our human capital and law and order.The basic command of order has to prevail, every civil individual has to uphold common sense. Respect one another, respect the law, respect for self. All those good virtues are absent in everyday life and the result is a disorganised society with high crime rate.

POM classified as one of the most dangerous cities in the World was the subject of discussion. Most of these classifications are based on petty criminal offenses like holdup, pickpocket, knife and gun crime, including serious ones like rape and murder. 

These are opportunistic crimes and controllable. They come under duties of law enforcers, the police and courts. Port Moresby policewo/men have to start protecting citizens instead of protecting the white collar criminals and fraudsters. 

POM has the potential to be the best city, but it has left itself down for far too long. The others in 8th and 9th places are ravaged by civil wars and sectarian violence never have a chance to rebuild themselves in the near future. 

There needs to be political will and civil obedience. Only then we'll see a change for the better.

2014 MPs 10% Pay Rise | Prime Minister, the Highest Earner at K306, 000 - Ho! Ho!! Ho!!!

An increase in lower level public servants pay would be welcome. Many reforms are taking place in health, education and other departments. These reforms placed a huge burden on the implementers. The education reform, for instance, puts a lot of pressure on limited resources, including teachers. Any increase in their pay would compliment their work load.

In an earlier post, I commended the pay increase for teachers from 2014 to 2016 announced by Dr Puka Temu in November of 2013. But, why do the MPs get an increase almost every year? Do they deserve it? Haven’t they received enough? There is no point in awarding parliamentarians massive increases year on year to sustain their lavish lifestyles. No point at all.

Take a look at this. Sir Michael Somare’s government unanimously approved a 52% pay rise in November 2010. A massive increase just before Christmas. Ho! Ho!! Ho!!!

Puka Temu, the then Public Service Minister in Peter O’Neill's government, announced another increase of 7% in November 2013. Actually, that was backdated to 1st January 2013 and paid to each Member of Parliament before they for their Christmas holiday. Ho! Ho!! Ho!!! again.

During that announcement, the minister also declared a separate increase of 7.5% and 2.5% thereafter to 2016 for every public sector worker, including the MPs. What is unclear is whether this increase is evident from the MPs to community school teachers and community health workers.

For clarification, the 2013 increases were in three parts: a 7% one-off payment and a 3 year increase of 7.5% of the actual gross salary plus 2.5% of average salary. The average salary is all salary combined divide by number of earners.

Take a look at the calculation:

Every servant of the public will earn a 7.5%/2,5% increase, in installments, over a course 3 year period, 2014 - 2016. By 2016, the public servants will have realised a 30% spike in their annual pay if the government remains true to its promise. That is 10% increment every year. 

So, here is what our hard working servants of the public would have seen on their pay slips this year, 2014 with the first increase of 10%.

  • Prime Minister earns over K300,000
  • Speaker of Parliament earns over K250,000
  • DPM at the most earns K235,000
  • Opposition Leader earns over K235,000 (same as DPM)
  • Goverment Ministers earn over K183,000
  • Other MPs earn over K91,000
  • Provincial Governors earn over K64,000

And a Papua New Guinea classroom teacher will have received a compounded average of K21,525 for the year 2014

Happy Christmas and God Bless

Fighting The White Collar Criminals and Fraudsters in Papua New Guinea, No Room For Complacency

Transparency International’s most recent survey of global corruption (2014) revealed that PNG was 145th of 175 nations in the World, with the 175th being the most corrupt. In the Asia Pacific region, PNG was placed 21st with North Korea ranked 25th - placing PNG just 4 places away from a nation described as most authoritarian (dictatorial) regime in the 21st century.

This number captured informed views of analysts, business people and experts who have worked and lived in PNG. No one can dispute intelligence and experience of these experts unless significant improvements are evident within public service and law and justice sector.

What is important here is the reality that decision makers (politicians) and public service machinery (public servants) are putting PNG amongst the worst of corrupt nations on Earth. 

In order to improve the country’s ranking, first political leaders have to take the lead. That means that the Cabinet has to either set up anticorruption bodies, empower existing fraud investigation squad or both. Task Force Sweep – the anticorruption body set up by Peter O’Neill in August 2011 - was established in good faith. 

Any political initiatives for fighting corruption have to be formally sanctioned through the Constitution and given legal powers to both investigate and prosecute alleged white collar criminals. It must not be subjective to Cabinet ministers who are likely to withdraw support when they are investigated.

Independence of such graft fighting body is important. This will stop what happened to Task Force Sweep where the prime minister disbanded it when he was the subject of their investigation. Recent report revealed that this anticorruption body is stuffed off funds and on the verge of closing all its investigations. This is a direct blow as far as fighting corruption is concerned. 

The government has to remain true to the effort to reduce white collar crimes and fraudulent activities in the public sector by releasing K7 million funding for this year (2014). On the same token, the government of Peter O'Neill has to increase the funding for this effective but underfunded anticorruption watchdog. 

Second, public service departmental heads and secretaries will have to be appointed on merit instead of appointed by political affiliation. Questions have to be asked now to ascertain appointees to every government ministerial position. Wantoks and political allies must not sit at those positions if they do not have the experiences and credentials.

This is where corruption takes hold of government systems . To reduce fraudulent activities in public sector offices, a recruitment system has to be set up in future to recruit eligible candidates from within and overseas who can deliver on policy provisions and delivery of goods and services to cities, towns and villages in the country.

Meanwhile, a proper review of ‘who’ is doing ‘what’ is long overdue, starting with the prime minister’s office including every position within the 32 ministries in the government.

So has PNG seen an improvement in the fight against corruption? Regardless of public and international perception on corruption, there is some signs of improvement. Task Force Sweep had arrested over 50 people and recouped K60 million15 MPs are currently under investigation for white collar crimes and corruption: 3 are found guilty;

- PM for Pomio Paul Tiensten is convicted of ‘making a footnote on a project proposal that compelled the officers of National Planning to bypass the lawful processes and procedures in making payment’ of K10 million to Travel Air  and is serving 9 years in Bomana Prison

- Gulf Governor Havila Kavo is given 3 years prison sentence for has been found guilty of misusing K130 000 from a trust account belonging to the people of Kikori district for infrastructure.

- MP for Komo-Magarima Francis Potape found guilty by the National Court of misusing K330,000 of public funds.

Many Papua New Guineans thought maximum sentence of 10 years for misappropriation of public funds did not match the amount of money these white collar criminals and fraudsters siphoned. But the fact is that justice was served. That is what matters the most.

Task Force Sweep has to keep the momentum. The government has to release funds for it to operate. Not doing so means that Peter O'Neill and Leo Dion's government are starving a vital investigative body to death, thus nursing corruption. 

Blast from the recent past | Goroka Coffee Ranked Third in World Competition

Quality coffee produced by a local coffee producer was ranked third in an international coffee cupping competition in the United States of America recently.

The Sihereni coffee estate, owned and operated by David Orimarie in the Kwonghi area of Upper Asaro Local Level Government in Daulo District of Eastern Highlands Province won the 3rd placing among a total of 30 coffee samples of different coffee producing countries collected by Ecom Trading around the world.

The coffee was tasted and certified by the Rainforest Alliance under “The Best of Ecom Coffee” competition using cupping standards of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

During a recent announcement of the award at the Heaven Resort in Goroka, managing director of Monpi Coffee Exports,Chris Anders expressed great satisfaction on the achievement. Monpi Coffee Exports is a subsidiary of Ecom Trading, an international commodity trading company. Anders said, the result reflects the commitment and persistency of Orimarie to achieve top quality coffee.

“Sihereni’s achievement is an achievement of the PNG coffee industry,” said Anders.
Orimarie acquired the 22 hectares estate planted with a mixture of Arusha and Blue Mountain, in 2002 and has been in partnership with the Monpi Coffee Exports to improve his wet mill and acquire advice on agronomy, better business practice and seek niche markets. He expressesed great satisfaction on the achievement and attributed the achievement to Monpi Coffee Exports for the much needed advice and guidance.

“Quality control is the basis of our operation. Quality control standards have been established and are made sure they are maintained at all times,” said Orimarie in a previous media report written by reporter James Kila.

The report states that Sihereni has developed quickly to gain more reputation in the international and local coffee and finance community through its initiatives to produce quality coffee and practice good financial management.

The coffee samples from Sihereni scored 85 points and was described as having the taste of; melon, black tea, grapefruit, intense fruit, herby, tomato soup, sweet, bright acidity, medium body, adds grapefruit and floras in finish as cools.

Manager for Industry Regulation and Compliance at the Coffee Industry Corporation,Sam Menanga, shared similar sentiments and urged other coffee companies to follow suit in producing quality coffee to attract niche markets.


Fri 25 Oct 2013

Only 3 Months of Grace Period | Why O’Neill Must Keep His Friends Close, But His Enemies Closer

Since Alotau Accord, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea has enjoyed an unprecedented support from government Members. This is cemented by allocation of funds and privileges enjoyed by MPs supporting the government.

Lately, EMTV report cited that 10 MPs are planning a move to opposition boosting its numbers from 8 to 18. This is short of the original 25 opposition members. Most of them – 22 altogether – have moved to join Government when they knew they would not receive their District Service Improvement Funds if they had remained with the Opposition.

Many thought that these MPs have compromised their ability to think and act as leaders when they were lured by money. Three men remained standing: Belden Namah, Sam Basil and Allan Marat. They did not trade their leadership status and their people for money.

On the other hand, politicians have their rights to practise what they perceived to be in the best interest of their people. Who are we to judge?

It has been twenty seven months of smooth-sailing for Peter O’Neill when compared to previous governments, where power struggles and government instability were major issues. But, lots of things have happened during O’Neill-Dion rule, both good and bad: loans from Exim Bank and UBS, Infrastructure developments, completion of PNGLNG project, sacking of Attorney General and Treasurer, Task Force Sweep Warrant of Arrest on Peter O’Neill, his latest referral to a Leadership Tribunal and many more.

It is important to note that the prime minister in the 9th parliament has his work cut out to remain for full 30 months. Signing of Alotau Accord and extension of grace period from 18 to 30 months has made it possible. Unless this period is tested and proven to be illegal by the Courts, Peter O’Neill will remain prime minister whether one likes it or not.

So, how long can PNC and its coalition partners enjoy the grace period? Sadly not long. O’Neill-Dion government has only 3 months before a vote-of-no-confidence it called. That means that a motion of vote-of-no-confidence on Peter O’Neill is likely to happen in February or March next year, 2015.

The government is not concerned at the moment as it is enjoying stability from within PNC and coalition partners. This remains to be seen in just 3 months.Meanwhile, Peter O’Neill may have to keep his friends close, but his enemies closer.

K8.6 Billion Debt Vs K16 Billion Budget - Why PNG Treasury Runs Dry and Impact On 2015 Budget

Two letters were released on two important political developments on the same day, Friday the 14th of November. The first was the 'unexpected' referral of the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, to Leadership Tribunal. Second is a letter from the Chief Secretary of Government seeking cooperation from department heads to minimise pressure on 2014 Budget. 

The PM and Minister for Treasury indicated that 2015 Budget was on course. Their intentions were to showcase to every citizen and overseas friend that all is under control. As long as there are no confirmed data to support the Budget presentation, no one will believe them.

Government circular No. 05/2014 indicated that all is not too well. Chief Secretary to the Government circular implied that treasury could run dry before the end of the financial year. Every financial year ends in March. Does it mean that department heads have not followed tight monetary policy over the last 8 months? Why this letter is 'urgent'? 

The reasons why the heads should take cost-cutting measures detailed in Circular Instruction No. 05/2014 are indicative. This means that those reasons are used as smokescreen to divert attention from nonconformity to 'strict fiscal conditions set in 2014 Budget'.

The reality is obvious. Take a look at the facts associated with commodity prices, overspending and Government Debt.

1. Decline in tax revenues due to falls in some key commodity prices

Gold and silver prices have fallen after the financial crises, but oil and gas prices are at record high due to high demand from South East Asian Countries like Japan and Taiwan. Coffee price is at its peak, including other agricultural commodities.

The problem is that government has neglected Agricultural commodities, instead it places value on Gold, Silver and Oil and Gas. 

2. Increased costs associated with the completion of facilities for the 2015 South Pacific Games

Preparation of the SPG has put a lot of strain on 2014 Budget. The games committee has overspent  and requested more. The Government initially allocated AU$9 million, about PNG K1.2 billion when Don Polye was the treasurer. The estimated budget for the games is AU$342 million (over PGK760 million)

One only wonders if such an amount would not eat into Government Budget.  

3.  Increased costs on Government debt

Current government treasurer, in his 2015 Budget speech, said budget deficit is at K77 million and not K2.35 billion as expected from 2014 Budget. This is an oversight or deliberate attempt to divert from real debt. The amount does not include PNGK6 billion (about AU$2.7 billion) China's Exim Bank loan. The treasurer did not include the loan from Swiss bank UBS worth almost PNGK2.6 billion (AU$1.2 billion). 

It was reported that public debt service to cover interest payments stands at  K3.7 billion. Does this include both loans? What is the actual deficit brought forward from 2014? All these have to be factored into 2015 Budget and printed for all to see. 

In fact, PNG government has accrued a total debt of more than PNGK8.6 billion (K6b + K2.6b) since the Exim Bank loan. (That does not include other borrowings or repayments. or public debt of K3.7 billion or deficit from 2014 Budget of K2.35 billion). 

The conservative amount of K8.6 billion is factual based on both loans The nation's 2015 budget is around K16 billion. From the outset, one can see that debt level is at half the PNG's Annual Budget

Papua New Guineans and commentators have to see this figures clearly, and as it should be seen. The government has to tell us how much it has paid back. 2015 budget has to reflect all these figures in entirety. 

Apparently, Government of Papua New Guinea is placing all its hope on revenue from PNG LNG project. This is what the Prime Minister said in response to series of questions from the ABC news:

"GARRETT: You've just announced a 6 billion kina loan from China's Exim bank - that's worth almost 2.7 billion dollars. Critics say that is too big for PNG's budget. How do you respond?
O'NEILL: I think they underestimate Papua New Guinea's growth that is happening in the country. We are growing at an average of 8% over the last 10 years. We expect that growth to continue. We expect our economy to double by 2014. Our infrastructure in the country is declining to a state where some infrastructures are not able to cope with the demands of our people and our ecomomy. So when you look at this what solutions do you have? We need to program a massive overhauling and redevelopment of many of these infrastructures, particularly the transport systems in the country, and we are doing that by borrowing large sums of money. It sounds large but the draw down will not be in one single year. We are managing it prudently through our fiscal strategies that we have put in place and the projects are not going to be completed in one single cycle of a budget. So I don't think the stress levels will be that noticeable as the economy continues to grow. So I think our critics that are out there now stating that we are not able to manage such a large loan that has been sought through the Exim Bank of China we say this 'Do you want us to allow our infrastructures to continue declining? Do you want us to allow the economy to slow down and that there is no economic growth in the country? Do you want us to allow the unemployment figures to continue to rise?' Because when the economy does not grow the unemployment increases, all the other social sectors will decline. That is not a responsibility this government is prepared to accept. That is why the onus is on myself and the government to make sure that we rebuild the infrastructure in the country"
The stress level is clearly reflected in Chief Secretary's circular. The good news is that PNG LNG gas revenue will into government coffers starting 2015. 

Above all we must consider that PNG government will make just over K1 billion from its 16.8% stakes in the LNG project next year. Government's 10% stakes (149.4 million shares) in Oil Search contributes just over K70 million in first year of full production which is 2015. So, the anticipated revenue from the LNG project would contribute under K2 billion to Budget 2015.

It is certainly true that the Governments of Sir Michael Somare and Peter O'Neill have erred in using the PNG project as platform for more borrowing. PNG's budget has not doubled this year, not even next year when one takes a closer look at the rate of growth and debt level.

The country is likely to plunge deeper into debt.

PNG LNG | Do You Know ExxonMobil Can Recover Development Cost Under 5 Years

This analysis is based on the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG) response to series of questions from the Opposition. Including latest report from the nation’s television broadcaster EMTV news on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production in the country.

Many Papua New Guineans thought the US$19 billion earmarked for PNGLNG development was a huge investment. The amount actually spent was less.  A report from EMTV revealed that ExxonMobil saved over US$8 billion during construction phase.

To date over 42 shipments have left PNG shores.The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, when responding to Deputy Opposition leader questions about the shipments of LNG products, said a shipment was valued at US$50, 000, 000 on average. 

Expenditure margin has been reduced when ExxonMobil moved from development to production. Perhaps it is important to consider the savings of US£8 billion - a savings of 30% . Another good news for shareholders is that the company is likely to recover all the development costs – US$11 billion – in just 5 years.

For clarity: if 42 shipments worth on average US$50 000 000 each, ExxonMobile has made US$2.1 billion in six months. Double it to give US$4.2 billion in one year. So, in 5 years if oil price averages at the current rate, the project would have made US$21 billion.

So what does that mean? That means that the every shareholder would enjoy the fruit of their investments. What is not so right is the fact that PNG Government has borrowed heavily to partake in this business.

So, who is going to benefit from PNG LNG project?

Alternative PNG Prime Minister | Will Peter O'Neill Be Forced to Step Down?

L-R: O'Neill, Parkop, Kua, Namah [Google Images]
In light of the recent developments (referral of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill  to the Leadership Tribunal and pending arrest warrant for criminal charges), there may have been internal forces emerging, mounting and drumming up for who should take over the leadership into the 2017 election or until PO is cleared.

The most probable event will be that the PM will not step aside, unless asked to, as documented in his press release. But, his latest referral and pending criminal charges may have already created frictions within his regime resulting in breakdown in the Coalition Partners. 

Signs of disagreements were evident when Mr O'Neill sacked Sinesine-Yongomugl MP Kerenga Kua and Kandep MP Don Polye, two senior members of his cabinet. Other senior members are also not at ease, yet too afraid to  speak up unless opportunity presents itself. Hence, a change of leadership within PNC party or coalition partners is inevitable.

Either way, the government MPs (including those of the ruling PNC party), the middle bench and opposition may have to think strategically if the unexpected happens. They must think about the best way forward if (and when) Peter O’Neill is forced to step aside.

If he is pressurised from within his government or from the masses or by a Leadership Tribunal, most likely he would relinquish the prime ministership to another PNC member. Government MPs who can act sensibly and responsibly can regroup to change the leadership. In the best interest of the nation, a change must be without destabilising economic, political, social or any development. What is important here is stability and good governance.  

The opinion widely held by the public is that there is no one credible person/MP in the ruling PNC party to take over the prime ministership.

The 'would be' candidates may include:

1. Leon Dion – was made a deputy PM under the circumstances and not someone vibrant enough and decisive to lead.

2. Nick Kuman - who is rather soft and out-dated (not vibrant and dynamic),

3. Richard Maru - may be an enterprising state minister but may not master the parliamentary support for leadership.

4. Other PNC members including Marape, Zeming, Pato, etc are all rudimentary and not so prominent and promising candidates for PM.

Other coalition partners:

1. Ben Micah - has the popularity but diluted and disgraced himself on many fronts and further, he is a PPP man,

2. Bire Kimisopa - his leadership is diminished when he has been numb and dumb on issues of national concern and corruptions. He is lately trying to create media attention but he is already written off in the minds of the people,

 3. Don Polye - his party has been fragmented and destroyed. To regroup and re-gather has to be a move from not only his party but has to be supported by majority of the ruling PNC party which is highly unlikely, 

4. Patrick Pruhaitch – his integrity is already tarnished, not a decisive leader.

5. Kerenga Kua – though he is not a party leader, he briefly displayed maturity and confidence. Thereafter he has disappeared from the scene. He is credible but needed to do more to earn the parliamentary support,

6. Former  PMs are all back sitters

7. Powes Parkop - he is enterprising, innovative and serving backed by his vision. PP only problem is his close alignment with PO which he got mud over his face. Secondly, PP’s party in the government is minority. He really needed to persuade the ruling PNC party to back him if he ever needed to become the PM.

Opposition Members

Belden Namah, Sam Basil and Allen Marat are credible and prominent, principle-driven and unwavering. The Opposition Leader is no nonsense, firm, bold and is still a credible material for prime ministership. The only problem here is no government MPs would want to join the opposition.

Potential prime-ministerial candidates to take over from Mr O’Neill  are Powes Parkop, Belden Namah, and Kerenga Kua. 

Within the coalition political parties NCDC Governor Powes Parkop remains to be a better candidate for prime minister leading to 2017. 

- Guest Article, Adapted -

O'Neill Referred | 3 Allegations Of Misconduct By Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea

Peter O'Neill [Google Pics]
Referral of the Prime Minister to a Leadership Tribunal was confirmed. The news was a ‘Breaking News’ on Sharp Talk. It was interesting to note that people close to the prime minister didn’t know.

Yet, this particular referral process has taken three months. Ombudsman Commission (OC) referred Peter O’Neill on Tuesday 12th of August, 2014. 

According to the Public Prosecutor the initial referral did not contain sufficient evidence, credible to request the Chief Justice to appoint a Leadership Tribunal. OC has now provided cogent evidence, convincing to see this judicial process through.

Peter O’Neill referral is based  on 3 allegations reported in the Post Courier on 13th August 2014:

The Prime Minister failed to comply with administrative and financial processes including the normal overseas borrowing process in the approval of the K3 billion loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland AF (Australia Branch);

The leader having made a media release on the sacking of Mr Don Polye as the Minister for Treasury by saying that Mr Don Polye caused instability in the Government, when the actual reason was to do with Mr Polye’s refusal to sign the UBS Loan deal which the Prime Minister had unilaterally approved on March 6, 2014; and

The leader made a misleading statement on EMTV that he had obtained advice from the state agencies including Bank of Papua New Guinea on the UBS loan to purchase Oil Search shares, which was contrary to the evidence received.

Until Friday 14th 2014, no one has thought the Public Prosecutor would have made this bold move. To request Chief Justice to call for a Leadership Tribunal is a step in the right direction. The tribunal will deliberate on the process and transparency surrounding the K3 billion loan from Union Bank of Switzerland, the UBS.

Has the Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, complied with due process? Has he sacked Don Polye for the right reason? Has he obtained advise from appropriate institutions before signing off the loan? Those questions will be tested against the OCs evidence. 

Facing the evidence is what Peter O'Neill has dreaded. That's his great phobia. He must subject himself to this referral.  He can only proclaim his innocence by proving to the contrary any evidence provided to a Leadership Tribunal by the OC. 

Sir Peter Barter Calls For Responsible Discussions On Social Media


Sir Peter Barter          Courtesy SMH

Democratic good governance depends on public debate – debate which is based on fact, honestly and openly held views, and willingness to engage with participants who hold quite different positions. The Internet provides fresh – and exciting – opportunities for just such debates on important public issues. Unfortunately, however, it often falls short as some participants make ill-founded claims, or simply resort to labelling those with whom they happen to disagree. In complex and contested environments, such as those experienced at times in some parts of Papua New Guinea, such conduct has the potential to publicize mere assertions, even untruths, or, particularly when labelling is involved, personal abuse. In doing so, it may add or give rise to tensions on the ground.

As Minister for Bougainville Affairs, the challenges I faced included working to build trust not only in government but between ex-combatants on different sides of the previous conflict, and within and between communities around Bougainville. Similar challenges arose when the 2002 elections in Southern Highlands failed. My responsibilities included rebuilding the trust which is basic to peace, democracy and good governance on the ground. 

Anyone who values the free exchanges which are vital to democracy must, surely, appreciate the opportunities that blogs and other sites on the Internet provide. However, the ways in which some participants make unfounded assertions or simply ‘slag off’ at those with whom they disagree must, surely, be cause for concern. In doing so, they do not contribute to informed debate or help build the trust and mutual confidence in government and the wider community which are basic to public order and development. In this regard, contributors to social media would be well advised to bear in the wider – social – context in which they are expressing themselves, and that the role of media is to transmit what they say to a much wider audience which may not be aware of the immediate issues or context in which they are expressing themselves, or have ready access to other sources of information and opinion. In short, freedom of expression should be accompanied by an appropriate sense of responsibility.

Having been privileged to serve as the Minister with primary responsibility for the Bougainville Affairs for eight years, I continue to maintain a keen interest in the progress that is being made in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. In doing so, I remain in personal contact with the President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Hon. Dr John Momis and other Bougainvillean leaders, as well as students at the Divine Word University (where I have the honour of being a Council Member).

Without wishing to dwell on the past, I would like to make it clear that the negotiations which produced and then gave legal effect to the Bougainville Peace Agreement by amending the National Constitution and enacting the Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville involved Bougainvillean leaders on all sides of the previous conflict, support by the United Nations, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, and, most importantly, the active participation of the churches, individuals like the late Theodore Miriung, as well as women and men around Bougainville. These efforts led to the making of the Bougainville Constitution, the formation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), and, now, the work under way to bring about restoration and development on the ground, the transfer of functions and powers to the ABG, and preparations for the guaranteed referendum on Bougainville’s political future (due to be held, when good governance and weapons disposal have been achieved, between 2015 and 2020).

As Minister for Bougainville Affairs, I saw my immediate task to help make and build peace on the ground, and secure the resources required to provide essential services to the people. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the European Union, and other aid donors provided generous support.

Aware of the sensitivities among local communities, in particular, I did not encourage discussion about the future of mining at Panguna. However, I did make public my view that, in order to be truly autonomous, or become independent following the referendum, Bougainville would need to have an economy and become less reliant on donor aid. This is clearly a prime concern of the ABG and the people of Bougainville. They want Bougainville to be autonomous, and, in the event the people vote for independence and the National Parliament agrees, they do not want to be beggars.

Throughout my time as Minister, I had to deal with the sensitivities of the various factions, and endeavour to establish an environment in which the peace process could keep moving ahead - as it has, in fact, done. Though there may be people who disagree, I am confident that significant progress has been made, and that this will continue if we can harness the resources we have available now and in the future.

In addition to my responsibilities as Minister for Bougainville Affairs, I had to deal with the failed elections in the Southern Highlands and, ultimately, the establishment of the Hela and Jiwaka Provinces. I used many of the same processes learnt in Bougainville to help bring back some semblance of law and order and ensure an environment in which elections could take place. An important lesson I learnt is that you cannot wave a magic wand to bring about peace; peace can only occur if everyone wants peace; peace begins in the hearts of those who want peace!

Many of us appreciate the freedom and diversity of the views expressed in social media concerning Bougainville and other important issues and parts of Papua New Guinea. However, in doing so, we cannot help but be concerned at the ways in which some participants behave and express themselves as if they have licence to say whatever they choose, however sarcastically and disrespectfully they seek to express themselves and even to impose their views. 

Errors of fact, exaggerations, deliberate untruths and the application of unwarranted and unwelcome labels to other individuals, groups or organizations may cause offence, even hurt, to those who are targeted, including people who are innocent or, perhaps, unaware of the allegations being made or slurs being cast. 

Truly democratic debate is a matter of honesty, openness and trust in the integrity of other participants and the process as a whole. 

It is accordingly important that participants in blogs and other social media recognize the importance of these values, the role they are playing, and the need to behave in ways which are consistent with – and so help to reinforce – the very democratic values on which they rely.

Like every other country, Papua New Guinea cannot claim to be perfect. Amid our diversity, we have impressive – including some quite unique - national strengths. We also have important national challenges to address and overcome. While criticism can be vital to informed national debate in a democracy, ridicule and abuse are not; they frequently represent an abuse of free speech that would be condemned elsewhere, including the countries from which some of it originates.

Papua New Guinea needs improvements in health, education, employment and other opportunities for youth, which would help to reduce temptations to crime and reduce our reliance on foreign aid. A more self-reliant society and economy are important keys to a sustainable future. While it is not the only way forward, these are precisely the issues being addressed and the reasons why mining is receiving increasing attention in Bougainville. 

It is vital both to democratic good governance and to Bougainville’s future that participants in the discussions in Bougainville are not labelled in derogatory ways, or subjected to abuse or ill-founded accusations. Like participants in other democratic debates, they are entitled to be treated with honesty and respect. While they have the right to freedom of speech, contributors to social media should recognize the responsibilities that participation in the social and media aspects of their activities entail.
Papua New Guinea is an independent country. We have come a long way. Anyone who knows or cares for Papua New Guinea can only be impressed with the development that has taken place, while recognizing that much still needs to be done. 

My comments concerning social media are not directed against any specific person(s) or organization(s). My aim is simply to ensure that Papua New Guinea keeps moving ahead – towards what I believe are shared national objectives of more equitable distribution of wealth, more employment, and sustainable self-reliance based on agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and a responsible approach towards mining and resource development that will bring about improved services to the people of Papua New Guinea.

I, therefore, call on users of social media, both in-country and overseas, to adopt – and on their audiences to encourage - and promote a positive, respectful and optimistic approach when discussing issues in and affecting Papua New Guinea. 

The word ‘optimism’ comes from the Latin word ‘optimus’, meaning "best". An optimistic approach is one which leads one to look for the best in any situation, whether or not it is really welcome. While self-awareness and self-criticism are important, slagging off at our country or particular national actors is unlikely to lead to positive outcomes. The key to a successful future is mutual and self-respect, and an optimistic approach towards the opportunities and challenges we face.

Oct 10, 2014