Money answers sought


FOUR senior public servants have been served court orders to appear at the Kokopo National Court on Wednesday to explain why the Government has not allocated enough funding for the mv Rabaul Queen ferry disaster trial.
According to court documents, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan and Justice Secretary Dr Lawrence Kalinoe were served the documents last Tuesday and lawyer Tiffany Twivey, acting on behalf of Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele, received his documents on the day.
Justice Terrence Higgins, presiding over the trial on Nov 16, summoned the four men to appear in court to explain why adequate funding was not allocated to run the trial of the sea disaster in which at least 172 people perished in 2012.
An affidavit in support filed by Public Prosecutor Pondros Kaluwin on Oct 13 said due to the nature of the trial and allegations, the prosecution needed to call in a large number of witnesses to address several key areas to establish the negligence and recklessness of the accused.
Planning by police to secure funding for the cost of witnesses’ travel arrangements began soon after the committal proceeding on April 9 last year.
Investigating officer Supt Benjamin Turi informed his superiors of the need for funding and also set out costs for transport and accommodation of witnesses based around the country.
Kaluwin said his office had been in regular contact with Police Commissioner Gari Baki over the past few months and believed that the commissioner had taken all steps he could to address funding.
On June 16 Kaluwin wrote a letter to Dr Kalinoe seeking his assistance in relation to the lack of funding.
On Aug 29 he wrote to Lupari and NEC also seeking assistance to bring the public prosecutor’s financial situation to the attention of appropriate persons.
Kaluwin raised financial issues with Ngangan who promised additional funds but no actual funding was received. On Sept 30 Kaluwin, through his staff, sought an appointment with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill seeking his assistance but no response was received, Kaluwin said.
His staff has been following up trying to secure an appointment.
Ano Pala, Minister for Justice and Attorney-General, has assured the June session of parliament, that funding would be made available for the ferry trial.
On trial are ferry owner Peter Sharp and his captain Anthony Tsiau, both facing 172 charges of manslaughter and for sending or taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea.
The ferry sank off Finschhafen, Morobe on Feb 2, 2012.
About 300 passengers were on board.

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