The National, Tuesday 31st January 2012
By JEFFREY ELAPA
SOLDIERS involved in a short-lived mutiny last Thursday have surrendered their weapons to Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah.
In return, Namah yesterday made a submission to the government which granted full amnesty to the soldiers who were led by retired colonel Yaura Sasa.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement last night amnesty was granted to the serving Defence Force soldiers after a meeting of the National Executive Council.
“These are young men determined to serve their country in the military when they enlisted in the PNG Defence Force,” O’Neill said.
“They were, however, misled, used and led astray by desperate politicians and their masters and cronies.
“The soldiers were used by these self-serving individuals to achieve a political outcome.”
“As a responsible government, we will give them a second chance,” O’Neill said.
“We are giving these young men the opportunity to get back on the path to fulfilling their goals and ambitions in the force.”
The NEC also directed Police Commissioner Toami Kulunga and other relevant authorities to investigate and deal with all civilians and members of other civil authorities involved in inciting and participating in the mutiny.
Sasa, who had been charged with inciting mutiny, remained in custody at the Bomana prison and was scheduled to re-appear in court on Feb 29.
A former military attaché, Sasa, 60, was appointed commander off the PNG Defence Force by Sir Michael Somare, who was ousted by a parliamentary vote last August but maintained he is the legitimate prime minister after he won a Supreme Court case last December.
Sasa and his group of more than 40 armed soldiers made their move in Port Moresby last Thursday, placing the commanding officer of Taurama barracks, Francis Kari, under house arrest. They then drove to the defence headquarters at Murray barracks where they also placed incumbent PNGDF Commander Brig- Gen Francis Agwi and other top military officers under house arrest.
The mutiny folded when senior officers around the country rejected Sasa.
Yesterday, the remnants of Sasa’s men, holed up at Taurama barracks since last Thursday, gave up their arms to Namah and Agwi.
Namah met with top military officials before attending a special parade at the Taurama barracks yesterday morning.
He was accompanied by Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, Community Development Minister Andrew Mald, National Planning Minister Sam Basil, Gulf Governor Havila Kavo, Inter-Government Relations Minister Mark Maipakai, Health Minister Jamie Maxtone-Graham, Gazelle MP Malakai Tabar and Bougainville Affairs Minister Steven Kamma.
Namah told the soldiers, who surrendered 44 guns and ammunition, he would present the instruments of amnesty to cabinet and assured them they would be signed by the governor-general by the end of the day.
“I don’t just say, I do,” he told the estimated 200 soldiers who had gathered on the parade ground.
“I have directed my lawyers to prepare
the instruments and I will bring them
to cabinet today.
“There is only one government in Papua New Guinea – the O’Neill-Namah government.”
Namah also called on the soldiers to put their country first in their duties.
The soldiers pledged their support and loyalty to the O’Neill-Namah Government and to uphold the Constitution.
They also pledged not to recognise any person who claimed to be the legitimate government apart from the O’Neill-Namah government.
Namah said the handover of the weapons demonstrated that peace and normalcy was now restored within the PNGDF.
During the parade, Agwi declared Maj Freddy Aile as lieutenant colonel. He will replace Kari as commanding officer of Taurama barracks.
Police were seeking legal advice over laying more charges against Sasa for false imprisonment and deprivation of liberty.
The penalties for inciting mutiny are severe and, if found guilty, Sasa could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.