The National, Tuesday, May 3, 2011
THE prime minister and national executive council may have erred in suspending former police commissioner Gari Baki, an independent investigation has found.
The independent investigation committee had delved into the matter and presented its report to cabinet.
The contents of the report would be an embarrassment to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and the government which had suspended Baki, claiming that he had misled cabinet in asking for K10 million for operations in the LNG project area.
The committee’s report, a copy of which had been obtained by The National, stated in part that:
*It was unable to find any evidence to conclusively uphold the allegation that Baki had “deliberately misled NEC;
*There was no written record of Baki’s verbal briefing to cabinet on Oct 28 last year; and
*NEC should not, unless in very urgent and special circumstances, allow verbal submissions.
According to the report, the prime minister had received two different sets of advice, one provided by Baki on Oct 28 last year and another by Peter Graham on Oct 29 last year.
“On the basis of the two differing sets of information, it appears that NEC had concluded that the information provided by Esso Highlands Ltd was accurate; effectively rendering Baki’s advice inaccurate and that Baki ‘had deliberately misled’ the prime minister and NEC,” the committee said in its report.
On Oct 28 last year, Baki was summoned to appear and brief cabinet on the security issues at the LNG project sites. He did and pleaded for financial support.
Baki advised that two sections of the police mobile unit, deployed at Gobe to investigate an arson case, had to withdraw because of lack of logistical and technical support.
The former top cop, in his briefing, stated that Esso Highlands could not assist because investigating and apprehending suspects would involve police venturing into isolated local territory known to police as heavily armed with modern weapons.
The Gobe deployment was not long term and only involved investigating the burning of heavy equipment allegedly by locals.
The NEC approved a K10 million funding to provide additional support to police the project sites.
The following day, Graham requested and was granted an opportunity to make a presentation to Sir Michael.
Graham informed the prime minister, among other issues, that the police mobile unit had pulled out of the southern area of the LNG project and that they could not continue operations and had ceased work.
He further indicated to the prime minister that certain operational costs, associated with the police deployment, were paid for by Esso Highlands through an MoU with the constabulary.
The investigation revealed that following Graham’s presentation, Sir Michael formed an opinion that Baki had misled NEC in his briefing the previous day.
The NEC, at a special meeting on Nov 9 last year, suspended Baki and set up the committee to investigate the matter.
The committee found that Baki was not involved in the decision to withdraw the police personnel.
It was a tactical decision by ground commanders “to withdraw and regroup” once the unit was better equipped and resourced.
The mobile squad withdrew last Oct 23 and the contractor withdrew five days later. However, by 1800 hours the same day (Oct 28, 2010), the police mobile unit was re-inserted after NEC intervened.
Graham was not aware of the move as, on that day, he was briefing the prime minister that police mobile personnel had been re-deployed elsewhere.
The committee found that the real reason for the withdrawal of CCJV workers was the alleged careless and negligence by the company resulting in the death of two people, a fact the committee found “odd and regrettable” that Graham had not highlighted in his briefing to the prime minister on Oct 29.
The investigating team included Personnel Management secretary John Kali as chairman, Nemo Yalo, PEA president Michael Malabag and Allan Bird.
The committee started its investigations on Nov 29 last year and finalised its report after three months.
It was presented to cabinet for deliberation early last month.