BAKI SHOULD ACT NOW : BUSINESS, LAW AND CIVIL SOCIETY GROUP

Source: BACA

A coalition involving Transparency International and business houses in Port Moresby who have supported the creation of a Business Against Corruption Alliance , civil society and PNG’s peak legal professional body is calling on the Government to address a number of serious issues including : ,

 the harassment of lawyers and business employees by some members of the police force.

 The lack of transparency by government law and justice agencies in the execution of legal processes

This coalition, united under the banner of the Business Against Corruption Alliance (BACA), calls for:

1. Mr Baki to meet with them urgently to be fully briefed by BACA in relation to its concerns and, in turn, to advise BACA on what steps he will take to ensure that this harassment ends;

2. the Government to implement a comprehensive review of the Law & Justice Sector, including a review of all key office holders and responsible ministers; and Office holders and Ministers to be held responsible for their areas of responsibility in ensuring that constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens, including lawyers and business employees are UNCONDITIONALLY , EFFECTIVELY and IMPARTIALLY upheld and that those in such positions of authority be removed if they cannot demonstrate commitment to this responsibility

3. The Government to finalise the “whistleblower” legislation

4. The Government to establish a Police Integrity Commission

BACA cites two examples of illegal and unacceptable behaviour :

1. The most blatant and concerning example is the harassment and assault of members of the legal profession, who are officers of the Court, representing clients involved in a high-profile public case by RPNGC personnel.

2. The victimisation, harassment and jailing of bank employees involved in the ordinary conduct of their employment duties.

These are both frightening examples of what are perceived by many as influence being exercised over elements of the police force by external factors . They are clear examples of the break-down of the Constitutionally guaranteed rule of law in PNG, and the Police Commissioner’s silence is a damning indictment of his conduct as Commissioner.

PNG is now confronted with a situation where the law is seen by many to be the victim of personal influence.This situation threatens all citizens, not just lawyers and businessmen. Mr Baki’s position as Commissioner is untenable if he will not come out publicly and state categorically that this situation is unacceptable to him , that it will end , and that he will issue instructions and ensure his officers of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary abstain from such activities.

This situation threatens to destroy:

1. the effectiveness and fairness of the legal system and the ability of people to engage lawyers to represent them – the legal system must not be held hostage to intimidation, violence or harassment.

2. the confidence of business and investors in PNG – if business employees cannot work without threats or violence from members of the police force, then what guarantee does any business have that their commercial arrangements will be enforced or their work can be conducted without thuggery and extortion?

3. the system of fair government – make no mistake, this is a threat to the democratic system. A police force that even gives a hint of not being impartial is a threat to freedom of speech, democracy and the fundamental rule of law.

Lucrative nation-building resource projects could be under threat due to an erosion of investor confidence. How can large-scale projects like the PNG LNG operate if investors cannot rely upon the impartial enforcement of the law when required? Furthermore, how can PNG attract new ethical investors when our police force bears even a taint of such impartiality?

The Government must wake up to this threat and take drastic action to remedy the situation. The first step is for the Government of the day and the Police Commissioner to answer the call of BACA and take the steps outlined above without delay.

THIS STATEMENT HAS BEEN ISSUED BY THE BUSINESS HOUSES OF THE BUSINESS AGAINST CORRUPTION ALLIANCE (BACA) AND IS ENDORSED BY THE FOLLOWING ORGANISATIONS:

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