By JULIA DAIA BORE
SIR Michael Somare appeared a contented man as he left courtroom one at the Waigani courthouse about 4.15pm yesterday, The National reports.
Asked at the doorway to comment on the tribunal’s decision, he smiled and said henimbha (it’s okay) in the Sausa language, spoken commonly in the Yangoru-Saussia district, the Boiken area of Wewak’s west coast and along the Sepik highway.
Sir Michael was met with a loud applaud from the waiting crowd on the foyer of the courthouse.
He also told photographers surround his car to capture his mood: “I deserve a break, I will take a holiday now.”
Sir Michael then got inside his car to be driven to parliament, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal.
At the parliament poolside, he and his cabinet ministers gathered for refreshment before calling it a day.
Sir Michael was heard later whispering to Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma: “Now that I am going on leave without pay, I might as well rely on my horses to take me through.”
It is understood that the PM was referring to one of his other pastime of punting.
As the PM’s entourage left the courthouse, outside in the car park, there was a subdued silence among those who had that filled the court house courtyard and car park.
Following the tribunal decision, Sir Michael released a media statement that he “respects the rule of law and, therefore, accepts the penalties” handed down by the tribunal.
Sir Michael apologised to the people, saying: “As a leader, I take full responsibility for failing to fulfil certain administrative aspects of my duties and responsibilities of leadership by submitting several late and incomplete returns to the Ombudsman Commission.
“For this, I apologise to the people of Papua New Guinea for this administrative oversight.
“It is very important to emphasise, however, that the tribunal has found me innocent of any corrupt practices that fall in breach of the substantive provision of the Organic Laws on Leadership.
“Further, I was found innocent of any false or misleading statements.
“Rather, the tribunal found that my breach of the Leadership Code was simply an administrative offence involving later and incomplete statements.”
Sir Michael said for this reasons, “I welcomed and supported the earlier decision by the tribunal not to suspend me from office pending its deliberations”.
He said the establishment and operations of the tribunal clearly demonstrated that no one was above the law but should be treated equally.
The prime minister said these were both important principles that he had worked to protect during his 42 years in public office.
“I must make it clear that I have never sought to avoid dealing with the substance of the Ombudsman’s case,” he said.
“Rather, I was exercising my constitutional right to have my substantive matter heard that has been before the Supreme Court for the last three years.”
Sir Michael said while on suspension, he would visit his East Sepik electorate and spend quality time with wife Lady Veronica, children and grandchildren.
Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal will be acting prime minister for the next two weeks.
“Abal is a bright and strong leader of the younger generation and he has my full confidence during this time and in the future,” the prime minister said.
“In accepting full responsibility and the suspension, I am pleased that this chapter of my long political career is now closed.
“I look forward to, with the help of my government, completing this term of parliament before retiring.
“I seek to carry my responsibilities to the people of PNG and fulfil our collective vision of a bright and secure future for present and future generations.”