FORMER PNG TREASURER BLASTS PRIME MINISTER SOMARE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 13) – Former Papua New Guinea Treasurer and leader of the New Generation Party (NGP) Bart Philemon said the worst experience in his political career was working with Prime Minister Michael Somare under the National Alliance party.

He told the NGP launch in Kundiawa last Thursday he had resigned from NA because of bad decisions by the prime minister.

"I worked with Sir Michael for 15 years but I had to maintain my integrity as a politician and a citizen of this country. We need to put top people there to run this country, irrespective of where they come from," he said.

Mr Philemon said to get this country forward, "we have to fix up the politics at the top".

He said his fallout from the ruling NA party stemmed from the prime minister’s US$200 million bond issue in 2003 and other unfavourable decisions.

"The US bond issue was the worst [in my] career in my political life," he said.

He said while he was Treasurer, the bond issue was negotiated by the prime minister (himself) with some U.S. fund managers while the country was millions of kina in debt.

The bond issue was not good for the country because it was given an 11 per cent floating interest and he was asked by the prime minister to sign the deal.

"I was asked to sign the deal but I took the matter to my department and asked views from senior department officers and we slashed the US$200 million down to US$100 million and interest rate to 8 per cent fixed," he said.

When the U.S. fund managers saw the changes, they refused to agree and asked for their original deal to be final, he said.

Mr Philemon said Sir Michael had brought the papers back and asked him to sign. But he said he refused and Sir Michael had to sign the deal himself. He said after the deal was signed, a bill for US$300,000 was given to the Treasury Department for payment by those involved as middlemen in the deal and it was paid after he signed.

Soon after that, another bill, for US$8 million came from someone in the U.S. for the same job of negotiating the bond issue and there was no document attached for amount of work done for that value, Mr Philemon said.

"I did not sign for this payment and I had to resign as Treasurer because US$8 million was a lot of money that could be used to service health centres and schools rather than paying only one person for doing nothing," he said.

Mr Philemon said he was one of the founders of the NA party with Masket Iangalio and Bernard Narokobi, but people with vested interest had now misled the party. He said PNG was a small country with no boundaries among provinces and its people should operate as one people and one country.

There was no need for "wantok’’ system or people from one particular area trying to run an organisation but only like-minded and top Papua New Guineans should be allowed to run this country before it’s too late, he said.

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