CONTRADICTORY VIEWS OVER CHARGES FOR PNG MUTINEERS

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Soldiers ‘will face the full force of the law,’ or maybe not

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 30, 2012) – Those who incited last Thursday’s mutiny at Port Moresby’s Murray barracks, or played a part in encouraging it, will face the full force of the law, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said last night.

O’Neill’s warning came after police arrested retrenched army colonel Yaura Sasa in Port Moresby last Saturday night and charged him with inciting mutiny.

Sasa, who led a group of 40 soldiers, placed PNG Defense Force commander Brigadier-General Francis Agwi and other senior military officers under house arrest in an attempt to take control of the military.

The move was short-lived with Agwi restored to his position later that day.

So far, two members of parliament aligned to Sir Michael Somare – Andew Kumbakor and John Pundari – had admitted that their camp was responsible for getting Sasa to stage the mutinous act, O’Neill said.

He said Sir Michael issued a statement which suggested he had endorsed Sasa’s actions.

"Let me make this clear – no one is above the law," O’Neill said. "If there is evidence of politicians having a direct hand in this mutinous act, they will be subjected to the full force of the law."

[PIR editor’s note: In a Radio New Zealand International report that directly contradicts O’Neill’s statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Belden Namah said "that he will seek Cabinet’s approval to grant an amnesty to the estimated 30 mutinous troops, but only this once." The same report alleges that the troops involved in the mutiny who were holed up in Taurama Barracks have now surrendered their weapons.]

"Retrenched colonel Sasa has been arrested, appeared in court and is in custody for his part in the drama last Thursday. He is being subjected to the law and others will follow as police gather more evidence in their investigations which are ongoing," the prime minister remarked.

[PIR editor’s note: O’Neill has since directed Agwi to deal with the soldiers involved in the failed mutiny. Finance Minister Don Polye has also urged military, correctional services, police and judiciary personnel and departments to be wary. Polye, who previously served with Somare, has criticized these recent actions, which he allegedly favored, as doing "more harm to PNG than Sir Michael ever envisaged would happen." "We hope never to see another one again," Polye also said."]

O’Neill said it was "irresponsible and unbecoming for politicians to make public statements" urging the disciplined forces to break the law.

"It is shocking to see and hear politicians in the Somare camp make statements like this. It shows they have very little regard for the disciplined forces and the rule of law."

He urged Sir Michael to stop holding himself out as an MP and prime minister.

"Sir Michael is not the prime minister and he is no longer a member of parliament and must move on in life," he said.

O’Neill said since the Dec 12 ruling by the Supreme Court, a number of court proceedings had been in both the national and supreme courts which were yet to be determined.

"As law abiding citizens, we should wait for the courts to address these issues rather than get desperate and use the disciplined forces to break the law. It is becoming clear who is trampling on the law here. And I urge Somare to stop making public remarks aimed at inciting individuals and institutions to break the law."

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