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By Sinclaire Solomn

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 3) – Former Papua New Guinea Governor-General Sir Silas Atopare has admitted that he removed items from Government House after his term of office but believes he did no wrong.

He said yesterday that when he vacated the Konedobu residence last October, he only took "whatever things the State provided me to use over the six years".

"If I have been wrong in taking my ceremonial suits, bedcovers, bed sheets, pillows, mattresses and eating utensils then I am really sorry," he said.

Sir Silas also said he welcomed any investigation.

Acting Governor-General Bill Skate told The National last week that State properties worth hundreds of thousands of kina were missing from the residence about the time Sir Silas vacated office.

They included official vehicles, computers, TV sets, tables, curtains and "everything else not nailed to the floor".

Sir Skate said he was asking the police to investigate and even question Sir Silas who is from Eastern Highlands province.

Sir Silas said in a statement yesterday it was common practice that the official residence is refurbished after every six years when the term of the incumbent expires.

"When I was voted in, I was advised to wait and give time for the administration of the Office of the Governor-General to clean and refurbish the residence," he said, adding that he moved in three weeks later.

On the official vehicles, Sir Silas said he took only the vehicle, which was provided to him by the State as part of his retirement benefits.

He said this is clearly stipulated in the determination of the Office of the Governor-General.

"The Official Crown car, I am told, is still there. The support vehicle should be in the workshop at Boroko Motors. 

"The Lady's support vehicle is still awaiting shipment to Port Moresby at the National Works Depot in Goroka. Due to unavailability of funds this vehicle was not shipped to Port Moresby on time."

Sir Silas said the administration office's equipment, furniture and stationery should be intact. Other office equipment and furniture as claimed should be still there.

"The State House should also be intact and I do not see any reason why State functions and ceremonies should not be held there.

"I am sorry the acting Governor-General, Bill Skate, took office during the transitional period. I believe the administration must have refurbished the official residence already."

On Mr Skate's concern that the budget for the Office of the Governor-General is insufficient, Sir Silas said it was manageable with K800,000 to K900,000 a year.

"If there are no support vehicles (which are still at the workshop) and stationary as claimed, then it may be due to funding problems," he said.

"As I have always emphasised, no man is above the law and that includes me. Should there be any investigation, then let it be so.

"Despite these outbursts by Mr Skate, I hold no grudges against him or anybody else for that matter.

"I still have great respect for him because he is our Speaker of National Parliament and Acting Governor-General.

"I regret all these things are happening after I left office two months ago."

Government House comprises a modern two-story residence, office, a functions/entertainment wing and staff quarters.

February 3, 2004

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