PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 5) – Madang used to be the most placid, picture-postcard place in Papua New Guinea. Now it seems to be a cesspool of murky politics.

The eruption over the comings and goings of Madang Governor James Yali is a clear sign that many in the nation are disturbed at such activities.

When alerted to the fact that Mr. Yali, awaiting appeal against his conviction for rape, had held two meetings of his provincial cabinet in jail, and had then left jail to hold another meeting in town, many objected.

It is true that, legally, a person is not completely dealt with by the courts until his last avenue of appeal is exhausted.

Mr. Yali, like any other person, must have his day in court. But it is the impression that something is dramatically wrong that must be taken into account by Mr. Yali and his supporters.

He should sit back quietly in prison and await the court’s decision. Inter-Government Relations Minister Sir Peter Barter says Mr. Yali is prevented by law from exercising the duties and functions of the office of governor by virtue of his conviction on a serious allegation.

It is not just Madang justice that is on trial. What is to stop a governor in any other province from behaving similarly in the future? Sir Peter, who has the benefit of government legal advise in supervising the running of provincial and local level governments, says Mr. Yali ceased to be a Member of Parliament on conviction on December 13, 2005.

This meant there was no need for a no-confidence vote or the sentencing for the crime. Mr. Yali, he adds, cannot act as governor because he is not readily available.

Certainly, residing in a jail takes you out of circulation, apart from his mysterious sojourn to town to preside over the passing of the provincial budget.

Where is the statement from the Corrective Institutions Commissioner about the suspicious meetings in jail and Mr. Yali’s temporary release? The silence so far is deafening.

The suspension of the deputy governor was also invalid and the deputy should be acting as governor, Sir Peter said. Well then, what is preventing the National Government from enforcing these opinions and ensuring that Madang Provincial Government is run legally? The example needs to be set firmly and promptly, to prevent similar antics in other provinces.

January 5, 2006

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