Lelang faces theft charge

National, Normal

The National – Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NATIONAL Planning and Monitoring Secretary Joseph Lelang, charged with breaking, entering and stealing, appeared yesterday at the Waigani District Court for mention.
Lelang, 42, from Apalik in Kandrian, West New Britain, was alleged to have broken into his own office soon after his suspension was quashed by the court last month.
According to court files, the accused did break and enter the office on the third floor of Vulupindi Haus along Waigani Drive and stole several important and confidential departmental files containing all National Executive Council (NEC) decisions on revocation and appointments of departmental heads and other files of “national interest”.
It was alleged that on the late hours of May 18, Lelang and a group of suspended and serving officers of the department ripped off the electric system of the doors to the office and gained access by breaking the locks of the doors.
Lelang’s counsel Philemon Korowi argued in court yesterday that his client was armed with a National Court order that reinstated him (Lelang) as the secretary and permitted him to gain access to the office.
However, he was reminded that the court order did not allow his client to break into the office, nor to steal confidential documents that were supposed to remain in the confines of the office.
Lelang had previously been suspended by the NEC from active duties on Feb 9 following serious allegations of misconduct in office.
The accused was also alleged to have been referred to the NEC to appoint an independent committee to investigate the misconduct allegations.
The accused while under suspension had successfully obtained a National Court order for his re-instatement to his substantive position as the secretary.
However, his claim of being re-instated as per the court order was to have been deliberated on by the NEC in accordance with his contract.
Korowi indicated in court that the witnesses and officers of the department were available and would be able to assist the police investigations into the allegations within two weeks.
However, magistrate Rosie Johnson indicated that such criminal matters needed thorough police investigations that required three to six months.
The police prosecutor’s request for a month to be given to the police for investigations and compilation of reports was given the nod by the court instead.
The matter is deferred to July 21 for further mention.