Monday, March 19, 2012

Inquiry: Ferry probe starts within 10 days

THE Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of passenger ferry mv Rabaul Queen is likely to get under way in the next 10 days now that its funding has been confirmed, The National reports.
 The commission, comprising Justice Warwick Andrew, a judge from New South Wales, Australia, and assisted by lawyers Mal Varitimos and Emmanuel Asigau, had been stranded since it was formed shortly after the Rabaul Queen sank on Feb 2 off Finschhafen, in Morobe province.
“Justice (Warwick) Andrew spoke to the (government’s) chief secretary (Manasupe Zurenuoc) today who confirmed that certain funding was now available and further funding would be available next week,” Varitimos told The National.
Varitimos said at a meeting last Friday, Zurenuoc had assured him that the inquiry was extremely important and funding would be available to enable the inquiry to properly function.
Varitimos and Andrew participated in the commission of inquiry into the sinking of Tonga’s passenger ferry Princess Ashika in 2009 in which 74 people died.
A total of 229 people had been listed as missing, presumed dead, from the sinking of the Rabaul Queen.
Varitimos said the commission was now seeking to confirm premises to work from and contact details for the inquiry. These were likely to be confirmed and available by March 23.
“Once confirmed, they will be published.
“As advised by the commissioner previously, it is proposed to have hearings in Port Moresby, Buka, Kokopo, Kimbe and Lae.
“However, some matters need to be attended to before the dates are set.
“It is proposed that counsel assisting will visit these locations prior to the hearings to
interview potential witnesses and give people an opportunity to provide relevant information before the formal hearings.”
He said the commission had done a lot of work since its appointment.
Zurenuoc said last week that K3 million had been found to start the inquiry and another K9 million would be made available.
A source from the commission said the inquiry was expected to begin after Sunday

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