Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Somare awaits fate as panel adjourns

AAP Papua New Guinea Correspondent  

A three-member tribunal hearing allegations of misconduct by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare has adjourned to consider its final decision.
Tribunal chairman Roger Gyles today adjourned the hearing, then said it hopes to decide Somare's fate this week.
If the tribunal uncovers issues related to financial statements, the penalty would not be decided until next week, Gyles said.
The fourth day of the leadership tribunal in Port Moresby heard closing submissions from both sides relating to 25 allegations that Somare failed to lodge his financial records as far back as 20 years ago.
Somare told the court on Monday he had lodged his returns every year and suggested staff might have lost some records that were missing from the Ombudsman Commission.
But the commissioner who initiated the original investigation alleged that Somare had failed to lodge or did not lodge complete forms or did so late and thus breached his responsibility as prime minister.
On Monday, the tribunal decided not to suspend Somare as PNG leader for the duration of the trial.
On Friday last week, Somare's health was of concern after a brief breathing problem, and this week he was using a walking-stick.
Every day of the trial the packed courtroom has been a who's who of PNG's political elite, with numerous cabinet ministers supporting the prime minister, who's been at the forefront of the country's politics for over 40 years.

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