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Commission of Inquiry into controversial PNG land deal yet to find an inquirer
3:53 pm GMT+12, 27/02/2017, Papua New Guinea

The search is still on for retired judges, preferably expatriates from the Papua New Guinea high court, to head the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the controversial Manumanu land deal in Central Province.
 
The announcement that a national inquiry into the anomalies surrounding the purchase of land at Manumanu by Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) and the Department of Defence, was made on February 6 earlier in the year by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
 
Now three weeks into the fold, the Government has yet to find a viable state inquirer.
 
Member for Kairuku Hiri Peter Isoaimo urged the Government last Friday to “speed up the Commission of Inquiry” as he said the people of Kairuku were owed an explanation and an apology.
 
The Prime Minister announced soon after Public Enterprise and State Investment Minister William Duma and Defence Minister Dr Fabian Pok voluntarily relinquished their portfolios that the investigation would not take more than eight weeks, yet three weeks into the frey, the Kairuku people and the rest of PNG are still waiting on a worthy candidate to take up the COI reins.
 
Although a few candidates have been considered, the Government remains unconvinced that they are the right persons for the job.
 
Speaking to Post-Courier, even the former chief justice Sir Arnold Amet put his hands up to lead the inquiry but the Government remained hopeful of one who would not be "politically biased."
 
Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s Office denied that Sir Arnold was ever a candidate to head the Manumanu inquiry.
 
The Government is believed to have approached two expatriate judges on the possibility of heading the inquiry but is yet to give a definitive announcement on who it will be and when the official national inquiry will commence.
 
The Commission of Inquiry will probe the alleged purchase of portion 406 in Manumanu at a cost of K46 million by Kumul Consolidated Holdings (KCH) and the purchase of portions 422 for K7.2 million (US$2.2 million) and 423 for K9.2 million (US$2.8 million) by the Department of Defence.
 
Allegations that heavily involve senior managers and Ministers of state departments, two of which as mentioned earlier, were sidelined to allow the pending investigation to eventuate.
 
At the same time, the matter was referred to Police Commissioner Gari Baki for consideration by the National Fraud Squad, and the Ombudsman Commission for potential breaches of the Leadership Code.
 
The Ombudsman Commission confirmed receiving a complaint by the Opposition Members of Parliament concerning allegations of the illegal acquisition of customary land for the relocation of the Port Moresby-based PNG Defence Force barracks and the naval base.
 
Police Commissioner Baki said the fraud squad team investigating the land deal was ready to issue warrants to check offices and officers involved and retrieve the original ownership file for the land and that all that remains is to officially commence the COI.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS


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