AUSTRALIA URGES PNG PROBE OF MOTI CASE

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By Harlyne Joku

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 31) – The Australian government is pressing for an investigation into the Julian Moti case and to punish those responsible.

The Australian High Commissioner Chris Moraitis revealed this in an address before a breakfast forum hosted by Papua New Guinea business community yesterday.

Mr. Moraitis, considered one of Australia’s most senior and distinguished diplomats, was appointed last month shortly after Moti’s escape from Papua New Guinea.

This is his first major speech since being appointed High Commissioner.

Mr. Moraitis said the manner of Moti’s departure from Papua New Guinea was a matter of "very serious concern" to Australia.

"Indeed, the specific measures we implemented in response reflected the level and depth of our concern over this incident. The Australian government said it wanted a robust investigation into the affair and appropriate action taken against those found responsible. Accordingly, we are watching the Defense Board of Inquiry’s deliberations with great interest and look forward to seeing the outcome," he said.

He said Australia was committed to the Papua New Guinea Defense Cooperation Program and therefore, was keeping a close watch on the enquiry.

Mr. Moraitis described Papua New Guinea’s relations with Australia as one of the closest and most complex bilateral relationships forged in the era of colonialism and strengthened during times of war. He said it is now a partnership between two proud independent nations, which will certainly experience ups and downs.

Mr. Moraitis also said the Australian government remained disappointed that it was unable to continue with the enhanced cooperation program’s (ECP) policing component.

Meanwhile, another related story in The National reports that a warrant is out for the arrest of Papua New Guinea Defense Secretary Frederick Punangi to have him brought before the Defense inquiry to explain why he is delaying allowance for the funding of the inquiry.

The arrest warrant authorizes police and the military to arrest Mr. Punangi on sight. The warrant also stops Mr. Punangi and his family from traveling out of Port Moresby, either domestically or internationally; and the notification has been passed on to airline officials.

The issuing of the warrant was based on an application by John Kawi—the senior counsel assisting the Inquiry.

Chairman of the Defense Board of Inquiry Justice Gibbs Salika said that as the first summons upon which Mr. Punangi had already appeared twice was "still valid", his (Mr. Punangi’s) failure to appear on Monday was a violation of Sect 52 (3) of the Defense Act. It carries a penalty of PGK40 [US$14] fine.

This whole issue stems from Mr. Punangi’s refusal since last week to sign for the release of funds for the general operations of the inquiry for this month.

Part of the funding was also to enable the inquiry personnel to travel to the Solomon Islands.

It is understood Mr. Punangi had made an appointment to meet with the inquiry board at 2 p.m. on Monday but did not turn up.

Department of Defense senior accountant David Porykali appeared instead yesterday, telling the inquiry he needed time to process the claims because the documents were only brought to him on Thursday, and the board was traveling on Monday.

Mr. Porykali said while he had approved and processed claims below PGK50,000 [US$179,900], any amount above that needed the authority of the Secretary.

He said when the Defense Secretary found out the details, he halted all payment and told him that as the board of inquiry was not allowed to travel to Solomon Islands, he would not authorize any claims for processing.

"That advice was a willful obstruction to the board of inquiry to carry out its duties," an angry Mr. Kawi said, saying lawyers who were working for the inquiry were not doing their jobs "for chicken feed."

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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