PNG PRIME MINISTER IMPLICATED IN MOTI ESCAPE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 27) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare and Chief Secretary to Government Joshua Kalinoe were fully aware of the secret operation which spirited fugitive lawyer Julian Moti to the Solomon Islands, an inquiry has been told.

After the secret operation, the Prime Minister allegedly told then Acting PNG Defence Force Commander Captain (navy) Tom Ur to leave everything to him and not to go to the media or tell anyone.

Giving evidence to the PNGDF inquiry into the Moti escape saga, Captain Ur said he got the orders of the operation from Joseph Assaigo, Director General of the National Security Advisory Council (NSAC), who also told him that the chairman of NEC (Sir Michael) and Mr Kalinoe were aware of the operation.

"Because we were going to use assets of the country in the operation, I asked Mr Assaigo if the Prime Minister and Mr Kalinoe were aware of the operation and he said they were fully aware," Capt Ur said.

The evidence given by Capt Ur differed from the evidence given to the inquiry earlier by the Chief Secretary.

Mr Kalinoe, who also gave evidence last week after an application to give evidence in private was declined by the board of inquiry, said he was not aware of the operation and took no part in it.

"I was not aware of any plans by the Government to extradite Mr Moti and I did not receive any direction from the Prime Minister, or any other person to send Julian Moti to the Solomon Islands," Mr Kalinoe said at the time.

Later in the inquiry, Mr Kalinoe refused to answer questions and sought legal opinion to answer the questions.

He also said he had heard of Mr Moti’s arrest from the then Australian High Commissioner Michael Potts and read about his escape in the media.

However, during a NSAC meeting on October 8, the committee noted a brief by Mr Kalinoe on the background relating to the arrest and detention of Julian Moti and subsequent request by diplomatic note from Australia to extradite Moti, and a further diplomatic note by Solomon Islands for PNG Government to help with Moti’s transfer to the Solomon Islands.

Capt Ur told the inquiry it was a military operation with orders from the top, which he referred to as unquestionable.

He briefed Sir Michael a day after the operation and the Prime Minister told him to leave everything to him.

"When I briefed the Prime Minister one day after the operation, he said: ‘leave it all to me, it is all political, I will deal with it’," Capt Ur told the inquiry.

The inquiry was adjourned to next Wednesday (January 3) where the Secretary of the National Executive Council Winnie Kiap will give evidence.

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