PNG – GOVT: TVNZ/AAP PACNEWS 2: Fri 04 July 2008
PNG could be like Zimbabwe
04 JULY 2008 PORT MORESBY (Pacnews) ------ Papua New Guinea (PNG) will become like strife-torn Zimbabwe, the opposition said, if the prime minister continued to intimidate and threaten the nation's watchdogs.
Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare used parliamentary privilege to attack recently retired Ombudsman Commission chief Ila Geno for initiating an inquiry into his personal finances.
Sir Michael is facing a probe into alleged financial irregularities, some dating back 20 years. He lost a court bid last month to stop the inquiry from proceeding, but has launched an appeal in the Supreme Court.
Government MPs rallied behind Sir Michael Somare in heated parliamentary session, saying he had “served PNG for 40 years” and was a “big man” beyond reproach, especially by the Ombudsman's office.
Opposition leader Mekere Morauta later told reporters that PNG was heading in a “dangerous” direction.
He said Somare had broken with parliamentary procedure and set a new precedent by using parliamentary privilege to attack Geno.
“The (Ombudsman's Commission) matter is before the courts and should not have been allowed to be discussed in parliament,” Sir Mekere said.
“It's pathetic. What's happening in Zimbabwe is the important institutions of state are debilitated into nothing.
“(Zimbabwean President Robert) Mugabe uses intimidation and might I add maybe we are at the beginnings of intimidating our institutions and closing the mouths of our institutions.
“And if the institutions breakdown and become compliant because of fear and intimidation then we are well on that way.”
Deputy Opposition leader Bart Philemon said he felt “sad and sick” after the “vicious and cowardly attack ... to character assassinate one of the most respected former heads of constitutional office”.
Mr Philemon said Somare was using the courts and now parliament to derail the investigation.
Mr Philemon said it was ironic that Somare was the committee chairman who reappointed Geno as Ombudsman Commission chief in 2004.
“Obviously he was doing a good job,” he said. “We are all subject to the same laws, we are taking a dangerous turn in condemning a public servant who heads an institution”……PNS (ENDS)