This post was originally written for The Global Panorama, and has been uploaded here as part of a growing portfolio of work.
PORT MORESBY — Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, has axed a major anti-corruption body, following damaging allegations of corruption, leading to an arrest warrant being issued in his name.
The leader of the country had the warrant issued for him on Monday, June 16, after a significant investigation lead by the local anti-corruption body, named Taskforce Sweep, found evidence of public corruption.
Prime Minister O’Neill has refused to go to police, maintaining his stance that the investigation against him was “politically motivated”.
“[The opposition] are using any avenue possible to try and discredit government and of course find a way to have me arrested,” he said.
The warrant is in relation to reportedly illegal taxpayer-funded payments of millions of dollars to allegedly corrupt lawyer, Paul Paraka.
While substantial evidence of the prime minister allowing the payments to be made have been brought to light, O’Neill still maintains his innocence, claiming the letters were forged in his name.
“We have no record of that matter whatsoever in my office and every letter that goes out from this office is registered and then delivered,” he told media in a statement.
“The letter…is addressed to one party and delivered to another and on that basis, we understand that the letter did not originate from our office.
“I can strongly deny any involvement in that letter.”
Taskforce Sweep has reportedly requested Australian forensic experts to analyse the letters in question.
A letter addressed to Police Commissioner Toami Kulunga, leaked to the media, explaining ‘fresh evidence’ says that the PM’s “denial of authoring and/or signing the directive letter… can no longer hold water.”
Earlier in the week, he enlisted lawyers to support his case and to keep his location a secret.
The latest episode in PNG’s unstable government could further complicate ties between them and Australia, as Australia relies on the island’s government’s support to keep the Manus Island Detention Centre for asylum seekers open.
This post was originally published on June 22.