Moti saga not our fault: Somare

PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has suggested Australian advisors coerced local officials into arresting Australian lawyer and alleged child sex offender Julian Moti in PNG in September, and implied a similar involvement in the fugitive’s escape flight to the Solomon Islands aboard a military aircraft.
Moti saga not our fault: Somare
Moti saga not our fault: Somare
Moti saga not our fault: Somare
Moti saga not our fault: Somare
Moti saga not our fault: Somare

Somare told PNG Parliament this week that the extradition process was mishandled by both PNG and Australian officials and he continued to deny that Moti’s escape was sanctioned by his Government.

He also questioned Australia’s motives behind the pursuit of Moti, given that a Vanuatu court had cleared the Australian lawyer of the nine-year-old offence, and Australian police had failed to arrest him when he was in Australia just two months earlier.

Despite their denials regarding their roles in the Moti affair, three senior government officials have been suspended so investigations into the Defence Force Casa aircraft flight carrying Moti can proceed. The officials are Chief Secretary to the Government Joshua Kalinoe, Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga and Defence Force Commander Peter Ilau, who previously denied reports of his suspension in the media.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has welcomed the suspensions, saying it shows the PNG Government understands the gravity of the issue, according to an ABC online report.

Somare said the “process and methodology” used by the parties involved in Moti’s original arrest under the supposed extradition process was “unconstitutional, unlawful, illegal and full of irregularities”.

“I am concerned that in the course of our investigations, it has been found that PNG and Australian officials collaborated to influence a series of unlawful actions,” he said.

“It would concern me if PNG officials were aided or abetted by foreign advisors to the PNG Government to carry out the arrest without compliance to proper legal procedures.”

He called the failed extradition into question at almost every post, saying Moti was arrested without an a warrant; a warrant obtained from a local court several hours after the fact was done so under the old Extradition Act and was therefore defective and unlawful; a warrant from a Brisbane court in August was illegitimate; and a “corresponding offence” was never established by Australian police as required by PNG extradition law.

“The list of violations of our laws, instances of irregularities and negligence of duties by officials involved in this case must be of concern to all of us,” Somare said.

“We … must be more vigilant in the service to our people and country. We must uphold our laws at all times and must never allow ourselves to be manipulated. “

He described his comment that Moti should be given “safe passage” to the Solomon Islands following his arrest as “off-the-cuff”, and accused “government leaders in our region” of “grossly” misrepresenting the remark.

“The House would be aware that (at the time of the comment) the matter was already in the PNG courts and any arrangements must follow proper legal procedures – and I’m not in the business of breaking laws,” Somare said.

“I should reiterate that officials in the PNG Government do not receive their instructions from the media. There are set procedures and processes that outline appropriate actions.

“Without cohesion from foreign officials, I dare say PNG officials would have followed proper procedures.

“Unfortunately, for reasons only known to itself, it appears the Australian Government has chosen to believe otherwise and has made imputations on my credibility and that of my Government.”

He said the two countries needed to discuss the matter in an appropriate environment and it was regrettable that Australia had effectively cancelled the PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum when it banned ministerial visits from PNG in response to the county’s handling of the Moti affair.

PNG has since banned its ministers from any travel to Australia.

The PNG Government has also “taken exception” to Australia’s threat to suspend its $A300 million aid package to PNG if governance issues were not addressed.

“Let there be no mistake, the political, social and economic dimensions of such threats are far reaching,” Somare said.

“Such threats and innuendos have the real risk to derail our trade and economic interest and other bilateral arrangements.”

The PNG Parliament was told the Moti affair was not a PNG matter and the Government therefore made no apologies for the events that have passed.

“Our officials were unwittingly baited into taking actions by foreign advisors whose motives remain questionable even today,” Somare said.

“I would be concerned if this saga is indicative of Australia’s new foreign policy of intervention in the Pacific and the Asia-Pacific region.”

PNG Foreign Minister Paul Tiensten, who has taken up a permanent role, has been appointed to “re-engage in dialogue” with Australian Prime Minister John Howard to hopefully “mend relations”.

Click here to read Somare's speech in PDF format


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