OPPONENTS CLAIM PNG PRIME MINISTER HID ASSETS

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Somare allegedly didn’t report income, assets for 10 years

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, August 12, 2009) – The Opposition has called on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to demonstrate that his Government was law-abiding and committed to law enforcement.

Opposition Sir Mekere Morauta and Deputy Leader Bart Philemon said in a press statement yesterday that the law and its enforcement must apply equally to all, especially among leaders.

"It is time now for Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to stand down. He must tow his eight other Cabinet Ministers with him," the leaders said.

The Opposition’s call relates to Sir Michael’s alleged failure to lodge annual returns for the periods 1994/95, 1995/96, and 1996/97, his late lodgement of returns for the periods 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, 2003/04, and incomplete statements for the periods 1992/93, 1993/94, 1997/98, 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2000/01, 2001/02, and 2002/03.

Under Section 4 of the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership, every person who is subject to the code must furnish details of their total assets, income, business connections, referred to as annual statements, three months after assuming office and every 12 months after that. Failing to do so becomes an offence for which a leader can be referred to the Leadership Tribunal for prosecution for alleged misconduct in office.

Prime Minister’s obstruction of using his lawyer and the court system have been widely publicised in the media. Many leaders in the past, incurring the same offences, had stood down. The Prime Minister must follow that example and stand down together with the other ministers who were in the same boat.

"Many important leaders in the past have stood down. Now, what is the difference with this man? He must stand down and tow his eight Cabinet ministers behind him," Sir Mekere said.

"The Prime Minister must stop obstructing the Ombudsman Commission from doing its job. He must stop using the court and other legal obstacles. Sir Michael must allow for the natural process of law to proceed, which is to allow for a Leadership Tribunal to be set up. And there the Prime Minister can defend himself."

"We remind the Prime Minister that he failed – not PNG – he failed to furnish his annual returns – not for one year but for at least ten years. Is he with us? He must face the music, like anyone else.

"We support comments made by leaders like Sir Julius that if leaders fail to allow the process of law to take place, then why should the man on the street be treated any differently.

"For the future of the country, and the Constitution that the Prime Minister has the duty and sworn an oath to obey, he must uphold the Constitution of this land.

"We demand that he tell us what he is going to do. The people are watching, Mr. Prime Minister. What are you going to do?" the Opposition Leader said.

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