AN Australian journalist was quizzed on Friday by a Papua New Guinea politician hunting for revelations about the Manning/Mitchell public comments furore. Gumine MP Nick Kuman went with two other men to a newspaper office in Brisbane to question journalist David Nason. Mr Nason, 49, a journalist of 23 years experience, works in the Brisbane bureau of The Australian newspaper. It was an article in that newspaper on January 3 that landed Nasfund (National Superannuation Fund) managing director Rod Mitchell in hot water with the Papua New Guinea Parliament. Mr Mitchell told the reporter, among other things, that he would not be able to raise children in PNG because of the conditions. Michael Manning, a former government official and analyst for the private enterprise “think tank’’ the Institute of National Affairs, fell into the same situation when he was cited as co-author of a report which described Papua New Guinea as being “on the brink’’ of collapse’’. Fiery debate in Parliament led to the two men being separately referred to the parliamentary privileges committee, headed by Mr Kuman, a former City Hall executive. Mr Kuman and two men arranged to speak to the Mr Nason who interviewed Mr Mitchell. They had earlier sent a list of eight questions to Mr Nason. The questions were sent to him by the PNG Tourism and Promotion Authority executive secretary Elizabeth Gari. The letter forwarded by Ms Gari quoted chairman Kuman as saying the committee was trying to find out if such publications were in contempt of the Parliament or likely to bring the integrity and dignity of Parliament into question. He asked the journalist if he could say if it was true that he contacted Mr Mitchell to run a story on NASFUND corruption or whether Mr Mitchell made the first contact. Among the other questions, Mr Kuman asked if he spoke to other people and if he was able to “disclose to us their identities and whether they are based in PNG or Australia or elsewhere’’.
Papua New Guinea will consider laws allowing the prosecution of people, including foreigners, who publicly criticise its government. Australian expatriate businessman Rod Mitchell and former Australian Mike Manning, now a PNG citizen, were yesterday hauled before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee to explain why they had publicly criticised PNG. The report by economic analyst Manning — director of the Institute of National Affairs — titled “PNG, On the Brink”, which was widely quoted in the Australian media, infuriated PNG politicians. Mr Mitchell, the chief executive of superannuation fund NASFUND, had criticised corruption in PNG in remarks reported in Australian newspapers. As a result of the furor surrounding the two men’s comments, freedom of expression in Papua New Guinea is now under threat, with the Permanent Parliamentary Privileges Committee intending to come down hard on publishers who publish damaging article on the country. The chairman of the committee, Gumini MP Nick Kuman issued the threat yesterday in his opening remarks into the hearing against Mr Manning. “The committee will, in this term of parliament, bring proposed legislation to amend the existing laws so there are in place effective and justifiable means to deter critics who persistently and knowingly publish damaging articles,” Mr Kuman said. “This committee may have failed in the past but it will be coming down hard on critics and publishing houses who take pleasure at publishing often critical and damaging comments in the media.” After the hearing Mr Kuman, as an afterthought, said the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution would not be tampered with. He said the committee feels it would need to push for the rigorous application of its functions, which immediately need to be revised and strengthened. The decision to refer Mr Mitchell to the committee was made during the uproar in Parliament over Mr Manning’s report. Politicians were outraged by comments allegedly made to The Australian newspaper last year. Mr Mitchell said he understood the remarks were given to reporter David Nason as “background” and were not for quotation. Mr Mitchell had said there was corruption in the PNG police force, government and public service. The committee was also upset that Mr Mitchell told a PNG newspaper he would “never raise a family” in PNG. Mr Mitchell said he had in fact said a “person in his position” (at the helm of a formerly failed savings fund) could never raise a family in PNG. At the hearing, Mr Kuman said: “The two before this committee are just classic examples of what the critics get up to when they want to put pen to paper.” In future, Mr Kuman said the role his committee plays would include working closely with the civil courts in getting critics to respect the laws governing the actions of Parliament and the actions of parliamentarians by prosecuting offenders. He said the committee would want to bring on board mechanisms and means, particularly deterrents, aimed specifically at critics who publish comments that tarnish the dignity and integrity of Parliament. “In particular the freedom of speech, debates and the proceedings in Parliament,” Mr Kuman said. However, both men denied making any comments directly at the Parliament or parliamentarians.
Manning says he was misrepresented INSTITUTE of National Affairs director Mike Manning told the Parliament Privileges Committee yesterday a report he co-authored was misrepresented by the Australian media. However, most of what was in the report was based on facts and figures which were provided by government institutions. Mr Manning also said he was not the only one to make such comments as other institutions and individuals had made similar and more damaging comments, remarks and reports. Mr Manning also pointed to a speech made by Planning and Monitoring Minister Sinai Brown recently who spoke of the same thing raised in his report. He was answering questions from the Parliament Privileges Committee, which sat yesterday. Mr Manning told the committee his report was meant to create debate and have Australians appreciate PNG as it was. He said the paper he co-authored was based on a meeting he and some other Papua New Guineans had with “senior Australian opinion makers” and was intended to create a debate. Mr Manning said he could not detect what the Australian media was going to write and that some of it was out of context and misrepresented what his paper was intended for. In saying this he apologized if it offended anyone as that was not his intention and his intent was for the good of this country.
NATIONAL Superannuation Fund champion Rod Mitchell said yesterday he had received threats in many forms, resulting in him saying he would not raise a family in Papua New Guinea. He said this when answering questions by the Permanent Parliament Privileges Committee yesterday when asked why he made those comments to the Australian press. Mr Mitchell said the reporter misquoted him and what he said was, for someone in his position, he would not raise a family in PNG. Among many threats, Mr Mitchell said he had received a barrage of personal threats, was chased in his car, thrown up against walls in nightclubs and received anonymous faxes from the post office with messages to leave the country within six days or he would be killed. He had also received deportation threats, abusive and threatening telephone calls, bogus fraud charges and threats of termination. Mr Mitchell said he was one of the expatriates who believe in the country and he could make a positive contribution to the country, particularly the 65,000 contributors of NASFUND. He said this when deputy chairman and Wewak MP Kimson Kare asked why he (Mr Mitchell) remained in the country after all these alleged threats. Mr Mitchell denied saying all leaders and bureaucrats were corrupt but there were elements of corruption in all areas and he had experienced this during his time with NPF. He told the hearing that, when he was interviewed by the Australian journalist, he did not know he was going to be quoted on this issue as the reporter said it was background information on a story he was going to file on NPF (The precursor to NASFUND). Mr Kare accused Mr Mitchell of provoking the reporter to write what he wrote which allegedly tarnished the country and its leaders’ names, particularly when this current government was new and made up of new members. And committee chairman Nick Kuman said there was an element of malice in what Mr Mitchell had allegedly said to the reporter. Another committee member John Vulupindi said, “we do not expect foreigners to come out and make vigorous statements”. The decision of the committee will be handed down in the next session of Parliament, Mr Kuman said.
PARLIAMENT yesterday was in uproar over what they saw as “damning” headlines and reports in four Australian newspapers, including one co-written by the PNG Institute of National Affairs economist Mike Manning.
Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare called on Speaker Bill Skate to refer Mr Manning and NPF managing director Rod Mitchell to the parliamentary privileges committee. Mr Mitchell’s proposed referral was over comments he allegedly made that Papua New Guinea politicians were corrupt and that he would not consider raising children in PNG.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu gave a hint of what was coming while debating one of the Bills to amend the Public Service (Management) Act. Sir Rabbie said because of the actions of one or two people, the Australian Government was being told to withhold aid until corruption was eliminated.
After the third reading, Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta sought successful leave of Parliament to make a statement and then table copies of newspaper reports as follows: “PNG on the road to ruin, study finds” by Mark Forbes published in The Age; “Canberra urged to rethink PNG ties” by Patrick Walters published in The Australian; “Expect fallout here as our neighbour falls apart” by Susan Windybank and Mike Manning; and “PNG headed for decline, anarchy” published in the Courier-Mail.
Mr Haiveta’s reading of extracts on these articles fuelled an already incensed chamber with many calling for deportation of Mr Manning who is a naturalised citizen and has a PNG wife and children. Mr Manning heads the Consultative Implementation Monitoring Council Secretariat and is on a number of statutory corporation boards.
Mr Haiveta, backed by other MPs, said that he should have had the courtesy to inform the Government. Mr Haiveta said this should been so given a “report that’s so damning and so untrue”.
Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said that he had been “shamed” by the article.. “Dispela kain talk em in putim yumi daun, daun, daun tru (This kind of talk puts us down, down, down completely),” Sir Michael said in Tok Pisin. He said PNG enjoyed a good relationship with Australia and reports like this affected Australian public perceptions and fuelled thoughts “that Papua New Guineans are not capable of running the institutions that are left behind”. “That’s utter rubbish. Papua New Guineans can run them and run them better,” he said. On references to “chaos”, Sir Michael said, “What chaos? What rubbish is Mike Manning writing about?”
MPs yelled, “Put him (Mr Manning) on the plane tomorrow.”
Sir Michael went on to say that if people can’t stand PNG like Mr Manning and NPF managing director Rod Mitchell, they should pack up and leave. He said Mr Mitchell was included because he described politicians as corrupt, and that he would never raise children in PNG. He called for a referral to the parliamentary privileges committee with a reminder to the committee members that they have strong powers to be able to jail offenders. Those jailed by the privileges committee do not have appeal options, he said. Fisheries Minister Andrew Baing suggested a diplomatic note to Australia conveying PNG’s displeasure and supported the call for referral to the privileges committee.
THE Somare-Marat government on Friday dished out a stern warning to public servants, foreign investors and selfish consultants to be positive about Papua New Guinea or face dire consequences. Deputy Prime Minister Dr Allan Marat, who also oversees the Trade and Industry portfolio, highlighted a negative trend of thinking while closing the National Development Forum held over two days in Port Moresby. “Think nationally, think people and think national interest. For overseas purposes talk up the country, talk up the economy, talk up the kina, maintain honour and reputation to attract foreign investors,” he said. Homing in on genuine partnership and attitudes, Dr Marat said: “Let me sound out a warning to those people, citizens, residents, visitors, politicians, public servants and consultants alike — either in this room or outside — who are not genuine by their utterances, actions, deeds or insinuations towards this country and its people. “If we are politicians, we know we are not genuinely representing and working in the interest of the local and national electorates. “If you are a public servant that designs or tailors your advice to suit yourself, or a foreign element, get out. If you are an investor looking for a quick profit, through whatever means, without respecting PNG’s sovereignty, law and people — take your money elsewhere. “If you are a consultant or a naturalised citizen, hell bent on using our people, system, government and laws to your sole advantage, terminate your consultancy and/or surrender your citizenship. “For all the cases stated here, if you apply what I have said upon yourself and it applies to you or hurts you, please rethink now. Because if you don’t, we, the Government, will have to ask you to leave what you are doing or leave Papua New Guinea. “To carry out and implement Government’s strategy and policies, as identified in this National Development Forum, our attitude towards everything we say and do for the Independent State of PNG, must always remain positive and willing to serve, sacrifice and deliver. To do otherwise would be obstacles or impediments.” Last week’s forum — the Somare-Marat government’s first — was aimed at “removing obstacles for a successful export-driven economic-recovery strategy”. The forum had affirmed obstacles previously identified that affected service delivery. These include poor governance, (corruption and instability); poor personnel management systems and processes; an unaffordable and unbalanced public sector; poor financial management practices and systems; cumbersome and ineffective inter-governmental financial arrangements; deteriorating infrastructure; law and order problems; lack of accountability for performance; inadequate response to HIV/AIDS; poor budgeting and planning, and limited capacity in local district level governments. Dr Marat urged participants, especially public servants, to deal with the obstacles.
East Sepik Governor Arthur Somare yesterday continued the Government’s call for positive attitudes and made remarks aimed at PNG Institute of National Affairs Director Mike Manning. Mr Manning was summoned to appear at the parliamentary privileges committee on Thursday following an uproar in Parliament over negative publicity in Australian papers arising from a paper he co-authored with Ms Susan Windybanks. “Greater justice would be achieved if we broke away from the bondage of...doctrine(s) of negative paralysis that encourage mental slavery, that does little but belittle, resulting in a state of stagnation,” Governor Somare said. “Such people...are agents of doom and paralysis of indigenous peoples and we will strive against them and prove them wrong as we stand on a foundation of thousands of years of rich cultural and resources heritage and civilisation.” Governor Somare was addressing participants at the Momase Region Forum held in Wewak to discuss and provide input to the National Government Medium Term Development Strategy 2002 -2007. He told MPs, provincial and local level government politicians and bureaucrats that his desire was for East Sepik to contribute actively to nation-building, having reached “economic indicators that rival those of the most developed nations on earth”. He said this included access to world-standard health-care and education, unemployment indices of zero per cent — and an expanding economy that augured for more affluence among his people. “There is little doubt in my mind that we shall achieve prosperity in Papua New Guinea and improve on our basic human conditions at a given point in time sometime in the near future, however there is a point in time where we set a plan of action to do that and the time is at hand today for us in Momase,” said Mr Somare.
VICE Chancellor of the University of Technology Misty Baloiloi has lashed out at “experts” who criticised the country, its institutions, government and its simple people. Mr Baloiloi said Papua New Guinea and its people were resilient and will continue to survive and prosper despite the doom and gloom utterances by “so called experts on the development affairs of our nation”. He said he has been very concerned at the growing amount of criticism of the country’s institutions, the government and even the simple but innocent people in the rural areas by so called experts on the development affairs of our nation. “As Papua New Guineans, we must reject the singing of such songs which are composed and sung by people who do not realise or refuse to accept our people in the rural areas, even if classified as living below the poverty line, can survive, whether there is a parliament in Port Moresby or not, whether there are ministers of state or not or whether there is politics or not,” Mr Baloiloi said. Speaking at the 35th graduation of the University of Technology last Friday, Mr Baloiloi said as Papua New Guineans people must learn to appreciate, protect and speak good of what they have, even if it appears insignificant when compared with the outside world. He said when people walk the path of optimism, this will lead to maturity on our terms. “We are a resilient society and people and it is this strength of resilience which is in our families, our tribes, communities, our institutions. “We must not forsake this resilience just because someone has done some research and has concluded that as people we are incapable of helping ourselves unless we subscribe to the prescriptions of English speaking doctors,” Mr Baloiloi said.
BIG business yesterday fired back at Deputy Prime Minister Allan Marat for his attack on critics of Papua New Guinea. A spokesman said it was deeply concerned and disappointed at the reported comments. Dr Marat told the National Development Forum on Friday that critics should think and talk positively about the economy to encourage investors. He “sounded a warning’’ to people who were “not genuine by their utterances, actions, deeds or insinuations towards this country and its people’’. He singled out public servants, foreign investors, consultants and naturalised citizens. He said if some of those groups acted in the ways he criticised, they might be asked to “leave what you are doing or leave Papua New Guinea’’. David Conn, president of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, said the timing of the comments at a forum designed to be the consultative organ for dialogue between business and government was “astoundingly poor’’. “The business community have shown their commitment to this country by continuing to work in an increasingly difficult and deteriorating infrastructure environment,’’ he said. “Those who have no such commitment have long gone and such comments will surely make those who remain question that commitment. “We must realise that such intemperate remarks from senior members of government, and the hasty response to the ‘PNG on the brink’ report, do more to damage PNG’s reputation overseas than any perceived damage from business commentary by domestic players who have an extensive and sound knowledge of our national problems culled from years of actual experience in the marketplace.’’ “As a long term resident with many years of commitment to community development and business, I am naturally offended by these remarks but they will not make me stop the work I have been doing for years for the ordinary people of this country.’’
[This page last updated 14/05/2003]
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