Barter: Stop the harassment

National, Normal

The National – Wednesday, December 29, 2010

FORMER Madang governor Sir Peter Barter has called for a stop on the harassment on Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his family.

“Like many responsible citizens in PNG, I am dismayed and disgusted at the manner in which certain sections of the media, particularly in the newspapers, whipped up anti-Somare sentiments over the stepping down of Sir Michael, in regard to what appears to be an administrative or procedural rather than a substantive, alleged breach of the leadership code,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“With just over 12 months to go, it is hard to imagine why he is being persecuted so relentlessly when the public knows he will not be contesting the elections in 2012.

“I see him as an inspiring, encouraging and motivating leader. 

“He took the post as prime minister, not to be a manager or to organise, regulate and control processes but to represent his people and to lead,” Sir Peter said.

“The unbalanced reports in the newspapers try to make Sir Michael responsible for managing processes which are the responsibility of others. 

“However, having known the prime minister for more than 40 years, I am confident that Sir Michael has not stolen money, goods or property for himself or anyone else.

“It would be incorrect if I said I agreed with every decision that the chief has made. 

“I have made this known to him both in my professional and private life,” Sir Peter added.

“I know he has respected my views; in turn, I have respected his – which have often been influenced by various people who have advised him.”

Sir Peter said this had, sometimes, resulted from what was known elsewhere as lobbying but, in PNG, it would sometimes be better described as interference.

“What the public needs to know is that it is not easy holding the prime minister’s high office. 

“He needs good advice – which has, unfortunately, not always been provided.”

He said Sir Michael’s reputation as a leader and statesman had been recognised worldwide. 

Sir Peter said leaders and dignitaries, such as Queen Elizabeth II, presidents and prime ministers, had paid strong, public tribute to Sir Michael who was widely recognised as one of the best-known, most highly-regarded political figures in the Pacific.  

“There have been setbacks on the way to the present situation, including the Bougainville conflict.

“There are obvious challenges ahead, including the way in which the interests of landowners and investors are managed.

“However, I am confident that PNG will survive that; and the person who has singularly contributed most to this is Sir Michael – who simply does not deserve to find himself and his family constantly belittled in the media, instead of receiving the respect that he and Lady Veronica, in particular, deserve.”

Sir Peter said the appointment of Sam Abal, as acting prime minister, had been welcomed by many.

“Abal is an extremely honest, hard-working MP and minister, with many years of experience.

“As PNG enters the New Year, he will face challenges, just as Sir Michael has experienced, and, like Sir Michael, he will need the full support of parliament and the public service to navigate past the challenges into and through next year –  which promises to be a great year for PNG.”