By JEFFREY ELAPA
FORMER Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has told Parliament that he will be the first to testify before a Commission of Inquiry into the UBS loan saga.
O’Neill welcomed the tabling of the Ombudsman Commission report on the loan by acting Speaker of Parliament Jeffery Komal yesterday.
He said that he was not part of any wrong-doing and would be the first person to testify before the inquiry that Prime Minister James Marape had announced to establish to investigate the saga.
However, the report implicated that most officials in the chain of obtaining the loan had acted wrongly or illegaly and recommended they be referred to the leadership tribunal.
Among them are O’Neill, Marape, Chief secretary Isaac Lupari, Treasury secretary Dairi Vele and other government officials, including Philip Eludeme and Wapu Sonk.
O’Neill said the Oil Search saga was not new, it had been going on since the acquisition of Origin Mineral by Oil Search.
He said Oil Search was a small company but acquired all assets owned by Origin Mineral owned by the State, making Oil Search a big company in the country, meaning that it processed all the oil-producing and gas-producing assets in the country that was held on behalf of the State.
O’Neill was referred by two former State ministers whom he had sacked from his cabinet for not following NEC decisions, but then alleged that the UBS loan was illegal.
He said NEC decisions were not made by one person, but by ministers of the State based on advice from Government officials.
“I want to assure the prime minister that he did not do anything wrong by complying with the court order that the State needed to make repayments on loan and that’s why he made the payment to repay the loan that we got from UBS,” O’Neill said.
“This came about because we needed to buy back the shares that were mortgaged to the Arabs.
“We have done so, and then, of course, today we are in the situation where these complaints are referring some leaders for their actions that they have made.
“I welcome the prime minister’s commitment to an open, transparent, public inquiry. I will be the first one to testify in that inquiry, I will be the first one because I have done nothing wrong. I have not negotiated these loans with any official with the UBS.
“These negotiations were conducted by Treasury.
“On advice given by our officials, we went ahead and made a NEC decision and that is nothing wrong with that. But I want to ask the prime minister that this inquiry should extend beyond UBS, it extends even beyond, and it must go to the root cause of this particular action that we took and that is the loan we took in IPC. The Arabs’ loan the Somare-government got from a company that was not a publicly listed company.
“It has got no transparency, no visibility and that is the cause of the situation that gave rise to securing this loan we took to buy back.
“When you talk about taking back PNG, it’s about owning assets, it’s owning resources, ownership of our country and that is precisely what we did.
“The OSL shares given away or mortgaged by the previous government and I welcome the COI and it must extend into the IPC loan as well because that is where you will find corruption.”
By JEFFREY ELAPA