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By Colin Taimbari

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 24, 2001 – The National)---Privatization Commission Executive Chairman Ben Micah has announced that he will formally vacate his job following media reports that he is bankrupt, although he vigorously denies the bankruptcy claim.

Mr. Micah will be formally writing to Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta today to inform him of his intention to stand down.

The bold move by Mr. Micah is believed to be the first by any leader in PNG -- political or otherwise -- since independence and sets a precedent for others in the future.

He told reporters at his private residence in Port Moresby yesterday that the fact that the media has declared him bankrupt has smeared his reputation and integrity not only in PNG but internationally as well.

He, however, brushed aside suggestions that his intention to stand down had anything to do with any future political ambitions that he might have.

Mr. Micah has also instructed his lawyers to take action against the newspaper responsible and vowed to make it pay heavily for tarnishing his name.

He said the writs will be filed today.

"Firstly, let me state categorically that I am still very much solvent. I am not bankrupt. . . my assets exceed my liabilities," he said.

He said neither he personally nor his family members were beneficiaries of a loan of more than K 480,000 (US$ 126,240), but it was his intention to honor the court decision by following all set procedures to eventually settle the loan.

Mr. Micah said it was wrong for the media to declare him bankrupt because the court has only begun an insolvency process, after which (normally 44 days), if he fails to respond or repay the loan, he would then be declared bankrupt by the court.

"I feel as a Papua New Guinean leader my conscience is right and is clear in terms of discharging of my duties. I have not done anything wrong which implicates my current position as executive chairman of the Privatization Commission, but this article has done irreparable damage to my standing as the person responsible for coordinating the privatization process in this country.

"On that note, I believe that I should not continue to stay in my position as executive chairman, whilst there is doubts in the minds of a lot citizens of this country about the nature of the things which have been reported in the paper."

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

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