Monday, March 14, 2011

Tribunal to decide on Sir Michael's fate today



PRIME Minister Sir Michael Somare will today know his fate on whether or not he will be suspended from office by the leadership tribunal hearing misconduct allegations against him, The National reports.

This will follow arguments by lawyers from both sides on whether or not the prime minister should be suspended.

Today may see both Sir Michael and accountant Glenn Blake taking the witness stand.

Last Friday, the prime minister’s defence team filed two affidavits at 12.30pm – that of Sir Michael and Blake – just before the tribunal convened at 1.30pm and served the documents to the prosecuting team (from the offices of the public prosecutor and the Ombudsman Commission).

The affidavits were then submitted by counsel representing the prime minister, Ian Molloy, to the tribunal during the hearing.

The tribunal, comprising chairman Roger Gyles and members Sir Bruce Robertson and Sir Robin Auld, asked public prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin what he thought of the late affidavits and he said he needed time until today to peruse the documents before replying.

The tribunal agreed to Kaluwin’s request and adjourned at about 2.30pm, setting 9.30am today to reconvene.

Outside court, counsel assisting the hearing Kerenga Kua said the prime minister’s team would ask for Sir Michael and accountant Blake to take the witness stand.

In his affidavit filed last Friday, Sir Michael stated: “I am aware of my obligations to give the Ombudsman Commission annual financial returns pursuant to the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership.

“Initially, I had personally completed my returns and lodged them.

“It has never been my intention not to comply with my obligations in respect of my financial statements.

“I have completed my statements honestly and to the best of my ability.

“However, through pressure of the business of government, the need to travel between my electorate and Port Moresby, and on overseas visits and the constant demands on my time, I acknowledged that my returns fell behind. I regret that.”

Sir Michael stated also that in 2000, he had engaged Blake, an accountant and family friend, to assist him with his outstanding returns and provided Blake the forms for May 1997-98 and May 1998-99.

In Blake’s affidavit, he stated that he came to know the Somare family through his business association with Arthur Somare at the time.

Blake confirmed being asked in 2000 by Sir Michael to assist him with his outstanding returns.

“I remember, specifically, asking him whether there were any earlier outstanding returns and he told me that he had prepared all the previous returns and they had been lodged.”

In relation to the returns being incomplete, Blake stated having difficulties obtaining Sir Michael’s salary details from the parliamentary salary section.

“I was unable to obtain an actual figure from parliament for any one year. No pay advice slips or certificates are issued and, frankly, despite my best endeavours, they were simply unable to tell me what Sir Michael had been paid in any one year.”

Relating to blank spaces in the forms, Blake said it was his “oversight”, adding that the intention was that the blank spaces were to indicate that there was, for instance, no income of that category derived.

Blake expressed being shocked at the Ombudsman Commission’s allegations about the missing statements, saying: “This came as a bombshell to me because it referred to outstanding returns for the years 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97. 

“I have never heard of this before and, of course, it did not accord with what Sir Michael had told me when I was asked to prepare the 1997-98 and 1998-99 returns.

“I looked for any correspondence from the Ombudsman Commission on the subject and could find none.

“I then noted from the Ombudsman Commission’s letter of Oct 18, 2006, that the last correspondence from the commission on the subject was February 1998.

“There was apparently nothing subsequent to Feb 1998 and, certainly, nothing that I have seen.

“If I had any inclination during that eight-year period, that there were allegedly earlier outstanding returns, I would have acted to resolve the situation,” Blake stated, adding that Sir Michael had remained adamant that he had completed and lodged all his returns earlier; prior to those that Blake had been asked to take on to complete for Sir Michael.

In the final paragraph of his affidavit, Blake stated that under the current situation, with the missing returns for 1995, 1996 and 1997 that could not be located anywhere, he had now gone ahead and prepared “new returns” for those same years which Sir Michael had signed and filed last Friday.

He added that had he been aware they had not been lodged, as claimed now, he would have attended to them at the same time he had prepared the returns for the years 1997 and 1999. 



No comments:

Post a Comment