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By Kevin Ricketts

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (November 24, 2001 – The Australian/AAP)---Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta has rejected Opposition claims that he and 26 other ruling party ministers and MPs each received shares out of a million kina trust account.

The allegations were raised in Parliament yesterday by outgoing Opposition Leader Bill Skate, who asked if the K 1million (US$ 263,000) was kept by a law firm and later deposited in accounts by contractors involved in construction of the multi-million dollar Deloitte Tower in Port Moresby.

Mr. Skate said he had in his possession an affidavit sworn in Australia by an expatriate previously employed by a real estate company in Port Moresby.

It supposedly contains the names and amounts allegedly paid to each of the MPs and members of Sir Mekere's People's Democratic Movement party.

The affidavit was expected to be tabled at a National Provident Fund commission of inquiry, which is scheduled to start next week.

The assets of the compulsory super fund, which financed construction of the tower, were written down by 50 percent last year after its corruption and bad investments came to light.

Mr. Skate asked Sir Mekere during Question Time: "If any of your ministers or members of your party or government are implicated in any dealings with the NPF, what course of action would you take and are you aware there was a trust account set up to look after 27 PDM members?"

Sir Mekere said he was aware of the existence of the affidavit.

"I have become aware lately of a certain document submitted by certain persons close to him (Skate). A document was prepared for submission to the NPF (inquiry). In that document my name is included as having received some money and what an utter nonsense. Even in reading out the names I am sure the information will come out, it's all PDM members, an amount of probably (a) million (kina).

"It's such a shame that people can go to these limits to tell lies to spoil people's names."

He said when the NPF inquiry published its findings, certain people would be prosecuted.

"Plenty of thieves are in hiding and we can prosecute them. If ministers are involved, there's no law that says ministers are protected. If it's proven, I'm sorry but they're on their own. It's not my job to protect thieves."

In another development, a coroner has recommended police who shot dead suspects in Port Moresby's attempted "Millennium Robbery" should stand trial for criminal wrongdoing.

Coroner Minty Mae said in her finding police who foiled a gang's attempt to land a hijacked helicopter on the roof of the PNG Banking Corporation on December 17, 1999, "forgot to execute proper arrests."

All but one suspect were shot dead at the scene of the downed helicopter, shot down by police.

For additional reports from The Australian, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Australian.



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 24, 2001 – Radio Australia)---A Dutch priest, Father Hubert Hofmans, 62, was shot and killed Friday by robbers in Papua New Guinea's northern city of Lae.

He was the second Catholic priest murdered in Papua New Guinea since August.

Bishop Henry Lieshout said Father Hofmans died from a gunshot wound to the head soon after being brought to Lae hospital.

He was delivering a small amount of money to a family who had done work for the church when he was attacked and robbed.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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