Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Task Force Sweep chairman: I am monitoring, not spying on citizens

THERE is no spying on Papua New Guinea citizens, Task Force Sweep chairman Sam Koim said yesterday in a prepared statement, The National reports.
He said his letters of Sept 8 and Nov 23 to Air Niugini were “prudent, proactive actions to ensure persons of interest (by his investigating team) do not escape this jurisdiction” while under investigation as commissioned by the National Executive Council.
Explaining his move to “monitor” the movements of 33 prominent persons, which included at least two government MPs, Koim said: “There is simply no spying being conducted on citizens, including the movement of the Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and his family.”
Koim was responding to The National’s news articles last Thursday about his letter of Nov 23, directing Air Niugini to “monitor certain people”.
He also denied claims by Pomio MP Paul Tiensten yesterday that Air Niugini was in breach of confidentiality by divulging passenger information to a third party.
“Air Niugini is a state-owned enterprise, hence the arrangement. Albeit being constitutional rights, freedom of movement and the right to privacy are not fundamental rights. Rather, they are qualified rights,” he said.
“Once a person becomes a subject of a criminal investigation, his rights can be qualified lawfully and some of those laws are like the Criminal Code Act, Proceeds of Crimes Act 2005, etc,” Koim said.
“It makes sense that while we are busy with our investigations, suspects may escape jurisdiction, proceeds of crime may be disposed and evidence may be tampered with.
“It will be a futile exercise to then investigate a case when the suspect escapes jurisdiction or the proceeds of crime are conveniently disposed of.
“It is, therefore, prudent to act proactively to ensure persons of interest do not escape this jurisdiction,” Koim said about his moves to “monitor” the movements of people.
“In this case, at no time was there any restrictions imposed on the movement of persons on the list.
“No one is barred from travelling within Papua New Guinea.
“The notion of presumption of innocence is embedded into the Constitution and remains until the final verdict by a court of law and this arrangement does not affect it,” Koim said.
“The attorney-general issued a direction under the Proceeds of Crimes Act directing Air Niugini, as a state-owned enterprise, to give or disclose to the task force information that is in their possession or under their control as and when it is requested by the taskforce.
“A list of names was provided to Air Niugini pursuant to that lawful direction by the attorney-general,” Koim said.
He said “the same constitutional argument was one of the issues raised in the proceedings filed by Tiensten in Kokopo.
“Tiensten attached my letter to Air Niugini, dated Sept 8, in his affidavit and, through his lawyers, made those submissions.
“The court, however, overruled those arguments, giving leeway for national interest to supersede individual’s rights.
“The successes of Task Force Sweep have been the result of competent police and institutional investigations.”
Koim said what he and ITFS were doing was in response to the cries and prayers of ordinary Papua New Guineans and it was an important initiative of the national government.

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