By ELIZABETH VUVU
THE Government has made available K730,000 needed to progress the mv Rabaul Queen ferry disaster trial, the Kokopo National Court was told yesterday.
Lawyer Jerome Sioni from Twivey Lawyers, representing Treasury Secretary Dairi Vele, told Justice Terrence Higgins that funding had been made available to the line agencies last Friday.
Higgins, on November 16, summoned Vele, Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan and Justice Secretary Dr Lawrence Kalinoe to appear before him today (Nov 30) to explain the non-allocation of funds to the police and Public Prosecutor’s Office to ensure the completion of the trial.
On trial are ferry owner Captain Peter Sharp and his captain Anthony Tsiau. They are both facing 172 charges of manslaughter, and sending or taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea.
The ferry sank off Finschhafen, Morobe on Feb 2, 2012 killing 172 people. About 300 passengers were on board.
Higgins summoned the four senior Government officials to appear in court after the court proceeding was stalled because of the unavailability of State witnesses due to lack of Government funding for the police and prosecution.
Sioni told Higgins yesterday that the money needed had been made available last Friday.
Higgins asked him: “Does that mean police and prosecutions can spend the money tomorrow?”
Sioni responded positively, saying Vele had indicated that in his affidavit submitted in court yesterday.
Vele also said in his affidavit that he had never received any request for funding from the Police Commissioner or the Public Prosecutor to enable them to bring in key witnesses for the trial.
Vele claimed that he only knew about the funding problem when he received the court order to appear in the Kokopo court.
Lawyer representing Sharp, Robert Asa, said it appeared from Vele’s affidavit the K730,000 would be the final allocation by the Government for the trial.
He, therefore, urged the prosecution to use the money wisely during the trial.
Investigating officer Superintendent Benjamin Turi yesterday confirmed that K650,000 was released by the Treasury to police and K80,000 to the Public Prosecutor’s Office last Friday.
Turi said from the K650,000, about K150,000 was used to pay what was owed to service providers.
The balance will be used to prepare for next year when the trial is expected to continue.
Turi said they hoped to complete the trial before the start of the general election next year.
By ELIZABETH VUVU