[This is a scanned copy of ‘Hiri’ a newsletter printed in March 1978. The ‘Hiri’ was published by the then PNG Government Office of Information. Below the scanned images are retyped text from this article. Click on the images below to see larger versions]
Politics or business – PM’s Stern Ultimatum to Leaders
Prime Minister Somare stunned the nation when he outlined a new anti-corruption leadership code to Parliament this month.
In the new measures, top leaders have three months to decide whether to sell their business interests or stand down from public office. Mr. Somare’s announcement caused considerable public debate.
‘none of us are saints – we must beware of temptation’
Government Ministers, permanent heads of Government departments, and heads of statutory bodies have been given three months to decide whether to sell their business interests or stand down from public office.
In a controversial new leadership code announced by Mr. Somare in Parliament this month, the business and property rights of leaders during their periods of office have been restricted to “enable the nation to get its priorities into line and to protect decision makers from the pressures of deciding between national and private goals”.
Mr. Somare said some leaders may need time to think the issue through but as far as he was concerned, there was only one choice.
He said the new code stemmed from his observations of some disturbing trends since the formation of his second National Coalition Government.
“I have become convinced that there are dangerous tendencies at work and if allowed to continue, these tendencies will corrupt our policies, subvert our efforts at national development, and set us on the wrong road,” Mr. Somare said.
“To speak plainly, I have become convinced that am increasing number of top national leaders, both in politics and the public service, are becoming too closely involved with foreign business interests”.
“I am gravely concerned that we are putting ourselves in positions where we are bound to be tempted to put personal gains above the national goals”.
“As the elected leader of the Government, it is my job to take effective steps against dangers of this kind”.
Mr. Somare said that in many countries, the process of Government and administration has become sick and rotten through outright corruption and the pursuit of personal interests by so-called national leaders. In many of these countries it had become traditional for political leaders and senior government officials to expect to retire as extremely wealthy men and women.
Often these countries were totally under the control of private business interests and pay-offs to public officials were taken for granted.
“I am determined that this will never happen in Papua New Guinea and I expect full and unqualified support from my fellow leaders”.
“We have a tradition of honest government but I see signs that we could easily go the wrong way.”
Mr. Somare said that the business interest of leaders did not always corrupt in an obvious way but more often in a clever roundabout way with no outright dishonesty or evil intent by the leader involved.
“None of us are saints and we should not put ourselves in a position where, to do our job honestly, we have to go against our national interests”.
Mr. Somare said foreign operators, salesmen of expensive machinery, consultants, and a whole variety of business representatives were all too ready to befriend national leaders and offer them benefits.
“Let me assure you, it is not because of the leader’s personal charm, management ability or financial resources. It is because he is a powerful man in the Government who may be able to do the businessman a good turn. The pay-off will come later”.
“The steps to avoid these dangers will not be easy but they are essential”, Mr. Somare said.
People’s Progress Party Leader, julius Chan, has warned that the severe restrictions of the code would remove capable people from responsible positions.
He said he believed the acquisitive instincts of a few would not be checked by penalizing all leaders and their families by requiring them to dispose of assets which have been acquired over many years.
Mr. Chan said he supported the idea in principle but believed that some aspects of the code needed clarification.
Opposition leader. Sir Tei Abal, said the Opposition supported the new code but believed it was being imposed about five years too late. The Opposition has pushed for such a code 5 years ago but had been told by Mr. Somare that it was not necessary, Sir Tei said.
So only one question from me to a man who made such a song and dance about corruption 32 years ago. Why are the Chinese building you a palace in Wewak?