THE Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court to dismiss an attempt by political opponents in 2014 to manipulate government agencies and issue a warrant of arrest.
“This has been a long saga, and the decision of the Supreme Court is again a very clear demonstration of the independence of our judiciary in our country,” he said.
“This is a decision for common sense, and it is a decision against people maliciously using our government agencies and the courts for malicious politics.
“From the start, this was a political witch-hunt based on a complaint by the then leader of the opposition, who could not change Government on the floor of parliament, so he engaged in other means.
“He could not muster the numbers so he tried to use agencies of the Government and the legal system to try and destabilize a legitimate government.
“If he and his cohorts had been successful, it would have set a precedent that would have terrible consequences for the country.
“This would have opened the way for every future elected Prime Minister of the country to be falsely accused, charged and forced to resign – all based on false allegations.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision clearly demonstrates that the legal interventions I sought, to have this matter tested in the courts, was the right approach as now justice has prevailed and precedent has been set.”
Mr O’Neill said now that the matter has been laid to rest, the cost of the attempted misuse of government agencies and the courts could start to be estimated.
“This saga has done great damage to the nation, it has costs millions of kina in legal fees, both to me personally and to the state, and our country’s name has been dragged through the mud,” he said.
“In particular, media outlets like the ABC have continuously acted without due care for the legal process that is taking place in the country.
“They have continuously portrayed an image of our country in a bad light. They take cheap shots, do not investigate and have a vested interest in presenting a bad image of the nation to promote their own careers.
“I give credit to all the media outlets that have demonstrated professionalism in this debate, that have not taken sides and have maintained fair and balanced reporting.”
Mr O’Neill said the issue had nothing to do with the government he has led since 2011, but was a dubious matter of the previous government of Sir Michael Somare.
“The facts are very clear, that the Somare government created the whole saga of the Paraka case,” he said.
“But no one pursued those who gave those contracts, no one pursued any payments that were made under the Somare government, no one pursued those who received personal benefits out of those fees.
“But they pursued a politically motivated case that has now been tested in court and certainly settled once and for all.
“Thankfully, the elections dealt with some of the agitators, and we have seen the back of them with many now out of office or again in the opposition.”
Looking to the legislative agenda for 2018 and beyond, the Prime Minister said the government is focused on the future and ensuring similar misuse does not occur again.
“We now have to put all these differences behind us and move forward, and it is important that we all learn lessons from what has happened,” he said.
“The lesson is that leaders are mandated by the people, and can only be removed by the people.
“Government is mandated by the Leader in Parliament, and can only be removed by elected Members in the Parliament.
“There is simply no other way, and as we have seen today, the attempted malicious use of the legal system has failed.
“Attempted misuse of government agencies, the police force and the courts is something that will not work.
“I hope this is a lesson not only to those who form future governments, but also to anyone who wants to try and misuse agencies for their political ambitions.
“Once again I thank all the supporters and everyone who has stood by our government and myself over this testing four years.
“This has certainly strengthened our resolve so we can all move forward, and hopefully the agencies and media who have been following this matter can investigated the real culprits who behind this case.
“We are all interested in the truth, in knowing who has personally benefitted from the particular contracts that were given to this law firm by the Somare government.
“Some of the lawyers and leaders that continue to claim that they are so called do gooders in the country are actually the worse culprits in this saga.
“Now that the Supreme Court has thrown out the court orders that were blocking us from advancing a legal fees enquiry, I want to inform the country that I will be tabling that in Parliament in February next year.
“Also, I want to say that we will be looking at the discussions around ICAC. Now that all these issues are behind us, we have the clearance to go ahead and to properly debate these issues so that our country can benefit from some of the legislation we are going to pass.”