PNG DEFENSE FORCE’S SINGIROK IS DISMISSED

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PNG DEFENSE FORCE’S SINGIROK IS DISMISSED

By Timothy Kwara

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 22, 2000 – The National)---Suspended Defense Force commander Major General Jerry Singirok yesterday was recommended for dismissal from the force for "one of the most serious breaches of the Leadership Code ever brought before any Leadership Tribunal."

Leadership Tribunal chairman, Justice Moses Jalina, ruled that "when the commander of the armed forces conducts himself in a way that brings his integrity into question, especially when bribes are accepted from foreigners, the people's trust and confidence in their commander is eroded."

Justice Jalina passed the judgment on Maj. Gen. Singirok at the Waigani National Court yesterday afternoon on three counts of breaches of the Leadership Code in relation to secretly receiving K 68,000 (US$ 24,276) from a British-based arms dealer in the months leading to the Sandline crisis of 1997.

Said Justice Jalina: "The commander of the armed forces is someone very special to the people of his country. He is special because he is at the pinnacle of those who have been entrusted by the people to defend the sovereignty of their nation.

"He is at the pinnacle of those who have sworn to lay down their lives for their countrymen. People go about their lives with confidence that the armed forces are commanded by someone who has not secretly compromised their country's sovereignty and their lives in any way.

"But when the commander of the armed forces conducts himself in a way that brings his integrity into question, especially when bribes are accepted from foreigners, the people's trust and confidence in their commander is eroded."

Justice Jalina, senior provincial magistrates C. Bidar and R. Sagu ruled that "when the commander secretly accepts payments and then secretly applies the monies for personal and private purposes we can draw no other conclusions from such conduct except one of serious culpability warranting dismissal from office."

The tribunal accordingly recommended to the Governor-General "that Major General Jerry Singirok be dismissed from office."

Maj. Gen. Singirok had faced a total of five counts of breaches of the Leadership Code and was convicted of three counts of misconduct in office, all in relation to the arms dealer and his failure to notify the Ombudsman Commission of his alleged dealings.

He was found guilty of secretly receiving K 68,000 from arms dealer J&S Franklin through his Visa card account in the London-based Lloyds Bank. He was also found guilty of failing to obtain exemption from the Ombudsman Commission of the payments he received from J & S Franklin.

The Jalina Tribunal noted that it was extremely serious for Maj. Gen. Singirok to deliberately evade the Leadership Code by failing to seek an exemption and to disclose the existence of the London account.

The tribunal ruled that by applying the money for private and personal purposes, Maj. Gen. Singirok contravened sections 27(1), 27(2) and 27 (5) (b) of the Constitution.

"In other words it relates to bribery," Justice Jalina said.

Submissions from the State lawyers showed that the money was paid into Maj. Gen. Singirok's account on four separate occasions "and could not be regarded as accidental."

"No-one else -- certainly not the media which had just done its job of reporting on very serious allegations -- can be held to be blame. Only the leader himself is to blame. It is he who bears exclusive culpability," Justice Jalina said.

He said that it was not demonstrated that Maj. Gen. Singirok's conduct did not amount to serious culpability.

"Public policy and public good demand dismissal in this situation. Leaders must be discouraged from this sort of heinous conduct which amounts to corruption in its barest form," Justice Jalina said.

He said that a leader who does this "sort of thing" -- even if he has done many good things in his public life -- deserved the shame of being dismissed.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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