Kavo must do the honourable thing

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday May 25th, 2015

 WHY is convicted Gulf Governor Havila Kavo still holding office despite a direction from Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion in January for him to step aside immediately?

And why is it taking so long for the Supreme Court to hear his appeal against conviction?

Dion, who is the minister responsible for Provincial and Local Level Government matters, issued a media statement on Jan 23 that made it quite clear that Kavo must step aside immediately “to protect the credibility and integrity of the governor’s office”.

Dion said: “It has come to my attention through the media that there have been so much debate and controversies regarding the Office of the Governor of Gulf Province since the imprisonment of Regional Member for Gulf, Havila Kavo and his release on bail by the court pending outcome of the appeal.”

There are differing legal opinions and arguments on the status of the Office of the Governor given the current scenario as the Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local-level Governments 1995 is inconsistent and not explicitly clear in such an event where a serving regional member of a province is convicted and imprisoned for offences committed while occupying the Office of a Governor and then released on bail pending appeal. 

In such situations as the minister responsible for Provincial and Local-level Governments matters and Minister administering the implementation and operations of the enabling law, Dion said he was duty-bound to protect the integrity of the Office of the Governor and the best interests of its constituents who are in this case the people of Gulf. 

We agree that since Kavo was successfully convicted and jailed for 18 months for offences committed while occupying the governor’s office, it is ethically and morally proper that he clear his name through the courts before resuming his role as governor. 

Although Kavo has been released on bail pending the outcome of the appeal, the National Court decision still stands and his status as a prisoner of the State remains until determined otherwise by the higher court.

The Deputy Prime Minister had urged Kavo to refrain from using the media to create doubts among people and investors “thus calling into question and demeaning the Office of the Governor for Gulf Province”.  

Dion added: “To protect the credibility and integrity of the Office of the Governor of Gulf from further de­meaning and call into question; Havila Kavo is advised not to conduct any official businesses in any capacity as the Governor for Gulf .

“Hence, I hereby further reaffirm and uphold the previous advice from my Department dated December  15, 2014, by recognising and allowing the Deputy Governor to care-take and continue assuming the role of the Governor for Gulf Province and chair the Provincial Assembly while awaiting the final outcome of the appeal.”

Despite Dion’s clear instruction, The National has been reliably informed that the convicted governor continues to hold office.

Kavo’s act of defiance shows that he has no respect for the Deputy Prime Minister and the rule of law.

Moreover, the convicted governor seemingly believes he is above the law and can twist the law to suit his purposes.

His conviction, the first for a sitting governor in Papua New Guinea, has brought much disrepute to the province whose past and present political leaders have failed miserably to achieve meaningful development and deliver government services to their people since independence almost 40 years ago.

Most of this in hospitable province remains under-developed with basic government services, such as health and education, still inaccessible to the bulk of its population.

There is little or no infrastructure development such as roads, bridges and wharves. 

The only major road link is the Port Moresby to Kerema Highway. There is a small airstrip in Kerema town but no wharf and the list goes on.

In fact, there is very little that the leaders and people of Gulf can be proud of.

Hopefully, the country’s second LNG project in the Gulf hinterland will project this impoverished province into the 21st Century.