Kavo must step aside to await appeal

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday June 22nd, 2015

 WE asked these pertinent questions recently: Why is convicted Gulf Governor Havila Kavo still holding office despite a direction from Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion for him to step aside and why is it taking too long for the Supreme Court to hear his appeal against conviction?

We did not expect any response nor did we get any from the concerned authorities.

Last Wednesday, Kavo was arrested and charged for misappropriating more than K780,000 belonging to the Gulf provincial government. 

The offence was allegedly committed between Jan 15 and Jan 27 this year.

Kavo was granted bail of K5000 last Friday by the Waigani Committal Court and the case was adjourned to July 20 pending police investigation.

While it is the court’s prerogative to grant or not to grant bail, the conditions for bail should have included clear instructions for Kavo not to continue holding office while awaiting a Supreme Court appeal and facing a fresh charge of misappropriation.

Dion, who is the minister responsible for provincial and local level government matters, issued a media statement on Jan 23 this year that made it quite clear that Kavo must step aside immediately “to protect the credibility and integrity of the governor’s office”.

Dion said he was duty-bound to protect the integrity of the governor’s office and the best interests of the Gulf people. 

We agree that since Kavo was convicted late last year and imprisoned for 18 month 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 duties. 

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

The Deputy Prime Minister had also 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 the Gulf Province”.  

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

“Hence, I hereby further reaffirm and uphold the previous advice from my Department dated 15th December 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 these clear instructions, we were reliably informed that Kavo continued to hold office.

His act of defiance showed that he had no respect for the Deputy Prime Minister and the rule of law. 

Moreover, Kavo seemingly believed that he was above the law and could twist it to suit his purposes.

Kavo’s defiance has now landed him in more trouble as he faces a new charge of misappropriating a significant amount of public funds.

We hope he will take heed of Dion’s instruction and step aside to await his Supreme Court appeal and the new misappropriation case.

Kavo’s 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 forty years ago.

Most of this inhospitable 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.

It is envisaged the country’s second LNG project in the Gulf hinterland will change the economic landscape of this impoverished province and deliver much-improved services and benefits for the people.