PNG MP Convicted Of Bribery, Has 2012 Election Declared Invalid

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Wesley convicted for giving truck to village during campaign

By Jacob Pok

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 2, 2014) – Samarai-Murua MP Gordon Wesley’s election victory in the 2012 National Election has been declared null and void after the National Court found him guilty of bribery.

This means Mr Wesley, who is also the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, is no longer a Member of Parliament.

Justice Ere Kariko made the ruling in a 17-page judgement on Saturday at the National Court in Alotau, Milne Bay Province.

He found Mr Wesley, a third-term MP, guilty of one of five bribery allegations levelled against him in an election petition filed by runner-up Isi Henry Leonard.

The bribery allegation that the court upheld was the presentation of a PMV truck Mr Wesley made to the Bagalina village on Misima Island on May 23, 2012, while the campaign for the 2012 National Election had started.

The court heard that the Bagalina ward development committee has asked the MP by letter in September 2009 for a vehicle to assist the villagers transport their garden produce to the market at Bwagaoia.

The Joint District Planning and Budget Priorities Committee approved the request in August 2010 and the vehicle was bought in Port Moresby in December 2011 and shipped to Alotau in January 2012.

In Alotau it was used by members of the Bagalina ward development committee before being shipped by MV Samarai-Murua to Bwagaoia wharf on May 23, and delivered to the Bagalina people.

The question the court considered critical was whether the presentation of the keys of the vehicle amounted to an inducement for electors of Bagilina to vote for Mr Wesley in the elections.

Justice Kariko questioned why Mr Wesley had decided to travel to Bwagaoia by sea with his District Services Improvement Program goods when he could have travelled by air to nominate as there was evidence of three flights a week to Bwagaoia from Alotau.

"I have no doubt that Mr Wesley travelled on the MV Samarai-Murua as an integral part of his campaign launching.

"He travelled with a barge full of goods purchased by DSIP funds. The barge was used as a campaign vessel rather than a public transport.

"It was decorated with Mr Wesley’s election posters and he had a live band on board. Music has become a tool of campaigning in PNG elections and it is common knowledge that live electric bands attract crowds. Not only did Mr Wesly intend to arrive at Bwagoia in style but in an elaborate way," Justice Kariko said.

The judge also found that the manner in which Mr Wesley approached the people at the time and presented the key of the truck to the councillor amounted to bribery and therefore ruled that the election of Mr Wesley in the 2012 national election be declared void.

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