By GYNNIE KERO
TWO Cabinet ministers have stepped aside pending a commission of inquiry (COI) into the Manumanu land deal in Central province.
Public Enterprise and State Investment Minister William Duma and Defence Minister Dr Fabian Pok voluntarily relinquished their portfolios to allow the COI to probe alleged illegal transactions of millions of kina in state funds.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill yesterday announced the setting up of the inquiry to assess the allegations against senior ministers and senior members of departments.
O’Neill told a media conference that he had recommended the suspensions of the Defence Secretary Vali Asi, Lands and Physical Planning Secretary Luther Sipison, Valuer-General Gabriel Michael, Kumul Consolidated Holdings managing director Garry Hersey, Central Supply and Tenders Board chairman Philip Eludeme and Motor Vehicles Insurance Limited chief executive officer Joe Wemin pending the inquiry’s outcome.
The National Executive Council is expected to meet today to decide on the proposed suspensions.
“As of today (yesterday), I am also announcing that Minister for Defence Fabian Pok and Minister for State Enterprises William Duma will step aside from their ministerial responsibilities pending the conclusion and outcomes of the commission of inquiry,” O’Neill said.
“In the interim, the Ministry for State Enterprises will be taken care of by Charles Abel, Minister for National Planning, and the Ministry for Defence will be taken care of by Mao Zeming, Minister for Fisheries.
“It was the intention of the Government to do this properly and fairly, and ensure NEC decisions, including the relocation of Murray Barracks and Taurama Barracks, are done in the best interests of the public.
“The people want to know the outcomes of these investigations and they will be given the opportunity to provide information to various investigations – through the Commission of Inquiry, Police Fraud Squad and the Ombudsman Commission.
“It is only proper that these allegations against senior members of the Government and the public service, that they be afforded the principles of natural justice and be given the opportunity to answer these allegations.”
By GYNNIE KERO