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PNG: TI, Media Council Condemn Settlements 'Shame'

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PORT MORESBY (The National/Pacific Media Watch): The PNG Media Council and Transparency International of Papua New Guinea, two of the leading anti-corruption campaigners, have called for immediate measures to rectify the out-of-court settlements by Government lawyers, The National reports.

Media Council president Peter Aitsi described as a "shame" the K8.6 million out-of-court settlement reported in the National newspaper yesterday.

Transparency International wanted those involved to be immediately identified.

Aitsi said the report in The National newspaper about the K8.6 million settlement must be seriously scrutinised by the Government and serious action must be taken to ensure that all parties had exhausted all avenues before the settlement.

While the directors of TIPNG called for transparency in the controversial Manorburn Pty settlement and urged that the beneficiaries of the deal be identified.

A director of TIPNG, Peter Lynam, said those who benefited from this agreement must be identified to reveal potential conflict of interest.

"When the integrity of institutions like the Solicitor General are called into questions, it is imperative that all vested interests be identified.

"If as reported, Manorburn Pty has failed to produce evidence to support their claim even when required to do so under a court order, then the public should know which individuals stand to benefit from this settlement," said Lynam.

He added that the only way that it can be shown that undue influence was not applied by interested parties was for the principles of transparency and accountability to be applied.

"Failure to do so will only increase public cynicism and distrust of Government. Therefore, TIPNG calls on all responsible leaders to lobby for complete disclosure of the details of this case to restore public confidence in the institutions charged with protecting their interests," he said.

Aitsi said the information uncovered by The National reveals a series of events that leave a lot to be desired, particularly at this time in the life of our country when we are facing such difficult times both economically and socially.

The action or inaction of trusted government officials in this incident paints a picture of "mistrust" in the minds of the public, he said.

He said the Media Council was also aware that Solicitor General Zachery Gelu had clouded his actions further in this matter by trying to give the reporter of the story a bribe of K100. The matter was made known to the Media Council and the funds have been donated to charity while the reporter had written to Gelu to formally register his distaste of this so-called gift.

"We ask the Government to take strong and appropriate actions against the parties involved, let us not allow history to repeat itself. The Ombudsman Commission could rightly say "we told you so," said Aitsi.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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