Tuesday, November 08, 2011

SABL Commissioner Jerewai: I will not tolerate laxity


A COMMISSIONER of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) investigations in Pomio and Palmalmal districts of East New Britain yesterday said he would not tolerate any “laxity” by any members of the CoI’s support staff, The National reports.
Alois Jerewai convened a special hearing of the commission at 9.30am yesterday in Port Moresby when he blasted three administrative staff for what he termed as their being “lax” in performing their duties.
He also called on them to explain for their laxity. Jerewai named them as Mathew Yuangu, the secretary of the Secretariat of the CoI’s SABLs, Ragagalo Raga who is the finance and administration manager and Augustine Sipaiah, the security/escort officer.
Sipaiah was reprimanded for not being present to accompany another agriculturalist in the team operating a K127,000 piece of equipment, to visit a timber site in the area.
Jerewai wanted their explanation made to the Commission on Nov 14.
“I will not allow any laxity to impede the progress of this Inquiry so as to be concluded well before the timeline set by the prime minister.”
Yuangu and Raga were  told to explain why Jerewai was not on the flight to Kokopo yesterday morning. Sipaiah was cautioned for absconding from duty while in Kokopo.
The four SABLs in the Pomio and the Palmalmal districts of East New Britain have been the centre of serious controversy. They had been projected to the world stage in such a way that the inquiry must establish with great amount of certainty based on evidence as to any irregularities which may have occurred in relation to those SABLs.
The attention is such that if this CoI, whether through logistical wants or through sheer neglect not by myself, but by the other members of the inquiry, including the technical staff, will reflect badly on our integrity,” he said.
“The gravity of this approach is this. Allegations of almost 5.2 million hectares of customary land that is owned by Papua New Guineans is not a matter to be taken lightly and as already seen in the preliminary stages and even now – the individual Inquiry into individual SABLs, is beginning to reveal very, very serious flaws.”
Jerewai’s team is in the Pomio and Palmalmal districts. Jerewai demanded that the show-cause resulting from not travelling back to Kokopo early yesterday morning to be in time for the 10am hearing of the SABL which he was to preside over.
In yesterday morning’s special hearing Jerewai said: “At the commencement of the inquiry in the preliminary stages, our focus was mainly on whether irregularities occurred in the lease-lease back arrangement to the state and in reversing back to the customary landowners or customary landowners’ choice of entities who will hold titles to these leases.
“But what had been revealed is that the true loss of or alienation of customary land occurred on the second stage where after the issue of the state lease on a lease-lease back to the customary landowners, was the sublease to the third persons. That is where the loss actually took place.
“I have not made a finding yet on this. I will repeat; I have not made a finding yet on this. This is the observation at this stage with the evidence I have at hand in relation to the SABLs I have been investigating in ENB,” Jerewai said.
“Therefore, it just magnifies the gravity of the situation we have and what may have been on the face of it in the preliminaries did not show us truly where alienation  may have taken place.
“My observation is that it was on the second phase and I am not going to be lax and I will not allow the CoI secretariat and other technical personnel to affect the Inquiry such that we do not reveal these defects.”
He added that he was making this revelation “with a great sense of gravity” as he was doing so without the presence of Chief Commissioner John Numapo and Commissioner Nicholas Mirou who were in other provinces, investigating.
Jerewai, however, said he was convinced that it was “necessary to do this”.

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