|PNG Opposition Leader. Belden Namah. Getty|
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has been urged to step aside while investigations are conducted into the alleged payout of millions of kina to a law firm.
The call by Opposition Leader Belden Namah was also extended to two senior ministers in Cabinet – Treasurer Don Polye and Finance Minister James Marape.
The law firm has since filed a court challenge in the National Court in which the substantive matter is yet to be determined.
In a press conference yesterday, Mr Namah said he had earlier made a call for the PM to relinquish the Police Ministry but that now he is calling on him to step aside.
He said in the May sitting of Parliament he had raised a major corruption case which involved a letter purportedly written by the Prime Minister to the then Finance and Treasury Minister, and to the attention of the then Finance, Secretary for the payment of some millions to the law firm.
“ I accused the Prime Minister of directing the payments inappropriately and produced a letter bearing his signature addressed to the then Finance and Treasury Minister, Don Polye, and to the attention of the then Finance Secretary Steven Gibson,” Mr Namah said.
He said he was concerned that the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s letter of directive to the then Minister for Finance and Treasury to make the payments may not be properly investigated.
“The Prime Minister and also Police Minister, is in a clear case of conflict of interest,” Mr Namah said. “He is implicated as the author of the letter of directive. The fraud and anti-corruption squad and Task Force Sweep will report to him as Police Minister as well as Prime Minister. The investigation is clearly compromised,’’ Mr Namah said.
“The Prime Minister has no choice but to do two things. He must relinquish the Police Ministry to another Member of Parliament and he must step aside for the authorities to conduct a thorough and exhaustive investigation.
“There can be no doubt at all, that the authorities will not conduct an independent and conclusive investigation into the authenticity or otherwise of the Prime Minister’s letter of directive when he is both the Police Minister and Prime Minister.” He also called on ministers Don Polye and James Marape to step aside for investigations into their roles as finance ministers during the period when the monies were paid.
“Tens of millions of kina just do not get paid by finance and treasury officials without ministerial oversight and approval.
“The Prime Minister and the two ministers must appropriately distance themselves and allow the Task Force Sweep and the fraud and anti-corruption squad to do their jobs unhindered and without fear or favour.
“The role of each one of these leaders must be independently investigated without their imposing shadows hanging over the heads of the investigative authorities.”