Former Chief Ombudsman on Constitutional Rule

By Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby

Former Chief Ombudsman and Police Commissioner, Illa Geno, says investigations into allegations against the Prime Minister should continue without interference.

Speaking to EMTV News earlier this week, Geno, who is also an individual member of the Community Coalition Against Corruption, supports the call by the coalition for other constitutional offices such as the Ombudsman Commission to assure the public that they are addressing the serious allegations that have been made against public office holders.

Through his time in public office, Geno has been the police commissioner, chair of the public service commission and the chief ombudsman, and said the integrity of an individual and the integrity of the constitution must be upheld at all costs.

“Rule of law must be upheld without fear or favour. Everyone in this country is subject to the constitution. We are very fortunate that we have a constitutional democracy and in my view, democracy will not work on its own. We must have a very strong rule of law, which is the constitution to make it work. The challenge is that those officers who are manning, who are at the helm leading those institutions they must work otherwise we have lost the plot,” he said.

Speaking about the events surrounding the questioning of the Prime Minister, and allegations of his involvement in the Paul Paraka matter, Geno said the investigations need to be completed.

“The allegations of criminal offences and when the police officer authorised by the constitution (under section 196, 197 and 198), under reasonable suspicion believe offence has been committed, they have to act without referral to anybody, no,” Geno said.

Former Chief Justice, Sir Arnold Amet, said in a separate interview from Madang that the moral integrity of the Prime Minister’s office needs to be protected and Prime Minister O’Neill needs to go in for questioning.

“All that he needs to do is simply volunteer to go in and answer the questions from the fraud squad officers. Then the warrant of arrest will be rendered unnecessary and the calls to step aside, although not required under any law at the present, it’s a moral issue,” he said.

Geno added that he feels there is cause for concern in regard to the issue of vetting investigations by higher-ranking officials.

“Any member outside of the police force to be involved in the vetting process, that is unconstitutional and also arguably may tantamount or impeach on the role of the judiciary,” Sir Arnold said.

He also said its time the Ombudsman Commission should state clearly if they are investigating a serious allegation of the breach of the leadership code.

“The ball is in the court of the Ombudsman Commission whether they are going to do anything about it or not. That is their call, but as a former Chief Ombudsman I can see that from observation multiple leadership breaches have already been committed,” he said.

So far the Prime Minister has maintained, through media statements and in parliament, that unless evidence of his involvement is produced he will not go in for questioning.

“I’ve always stated this and will say this again, very clearly. If there is one evidence that I receive one financial benefit I will resign tomorrow,” the PM said.

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