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Plot Toppled My Government, Says Former PM Skate

PORT MORESBY: A group of Papua New Guinea Defence Force officers collaborated with senior officials of a ruling party in an operation code-named Operation Rescue PNG between May and August last year to overthrow a legitimate government, Parliament was told yesterday, the National reports.

And the soldiers had demanded K2 million, promotions and the removal of the commander as payment for their services in installing the government that toppled Prime Minister Bill Skate, Parliament heard.

Mr Skate, now Opposition Leader, alleged that the operation was funded by a certain ruling political party, Port Moresby water manager Eda Ranu and the PNG Defence Force to overthrow a legitimate government.

He based his claims on a Defence Intelligence Bureau report which was distributed to relevant authorities including Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.

Mr Skate asked Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta during question time to confirm receiving the report about "Operations Rescue PNG."

He said that the report alleged that the same officials from a political party arranged and transported very senior army officers to Sogeri, just outside Port Moresby, in a 25-seater bus where they were addressed by the party hierarchy.

"There were a series of meetings to lobby and plan for Defence Force assistance to overthrow an Executive Government at East Boroko residence and Gordons residence of a certain political party president," Mr Skate said.

He asked Sir Mekere to confirm or deny that the logistics support was alleged to be funded by a political party and Eda Ranu and the allowance of the soldiers was paid by the Defence Force.

"These officers demanded K2 million payment as reward for services granted for provision of security to Members at Madang camp, Port Moresby and private residences in Port Moresby," Mr Skate alleged.

He asked Sir Mekere if he was aware of the excessiveness of the claims and a revised invoice of K50,000 was handed over to an official at the City Hall.

"Is Sir Mekere aware that these officers further demanded senior appointments and transfers which have been effected and many of these officers now occupy senior positions in the Defence hierarchy?" he said.

"The actions of these officers from one region demonstrate that the Defence Force has compromised its Constitutional role and its being used for political reasons which is very dangerous.

"Such a matter is very serious in nature. It questions the very fabrics of our Constitution, demeans the integrity of our Defence Force and defeats the whole purpose of why we elected leaders are here representing our people.

"If the Government was formed as per this military operation than one wonders if the objectivity of the Defence Force and even the Police Force is for real.

"I call on the Prime Minister to set up a Commission of Inquiry into this matter and ask all Members of Parliament to support the call."

Mr Skate said he has written to the Prime Minister, all parliamentary leaders of political parties, the Ombudsman Commission and the Attorney General's office to immediately look into the matter.

Sir Mekere said in reply that he could not recall reading the report and asked Mr Skate to put all the questions in writing and submit them to him "and I will make an official reply in Parliament later."

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