NATIONAL shame is what Papua New Guinea feels when our high commissioners serving as “ambassadors” overseas make headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Last Saturday, PNG’s deputy high commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Peter Mirino, was involved in a nasty car crash and had to be hospitalised.
The Solomon Star newspaper reported this on its front page and said alcohol was a factor in the crash.
It was alleged that Mr Mirino had an argument with his wife, during which she was injured. He then took her to the hospital for treatment and on the return journey, they crashed.
Eyewitness accounts said the diplomat was travelling “at very high speed” when he crashed.
The news spread across the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand, and other countries around the world.
This is certainly not good publicity for PNG.
Over the years and in recent times, PNG has had its fair share of diplomats conducting themselves in ways unimaginable and unbecoming of ambassadors.
It is pertinent to recall that our last high commissioner to the Solomon Islands was recalled for similar misbehaviour.
A senior source from the Department of Foreign Affairs has urged that “this warrants the immediate recall of the diplomat back to his home turf for discipline”.
Although the case has sent ripples across the region over the last four days, our Solomon Islands mission seems to be playing down the incident and appears not to be concerned about the magnitude of the case and its impact.
Until 4.06pm yesterday, no formal report had been submitted to the headquarters in Waigani by the Solomon Islands mission.
When contacted yesterday, the Foreign Affairs department said: “At this stage the only information we have established is that reported by the Solomon Star.”
Papua New Guineans, especially taxpayers, demand answers and action.
Normal protocol demands that the high commission conduct an investigation and file a report to the Government; however, in this case our source within Foreign Affairs said: “the Minister can act now to recall the diplomat”.
Neither the department, nor the minister, has taken a stand yet.
They must act now, because, if the reports are true, not only has the diplomat brought shame to our nation, but as a guest of the Solomon Islands, he has also showed disrespect to that country by breaching its laws.
He has also abused his diplomatic immunity, and if fate had it another way, other lives could have been injured or taken by his wanton disregard for traffic laws.
International law provides foreign diplomats with protection from legal action in the country in which they work, which will likely prevent any charges being laid.
So he should be recalled and disciplined if the allegations of drink-driving, speeding, abusing his wife and whatever else are proven to be true.
Immediate and stringent measures need to be taken because if nothing firm is done now, a bad precedent will be set and other diplomats may follow suit, knowing that they will not be punished.
We are baffled by the response of PNG’s High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Aiwa Olmi, who has urged the Solomons media not to report on the issue.
Yesterday, the Solomon Star reported that Mr Olmi did not want the media to continue covering the issue and “make a big fuss about it” but allow the authorities to investigate.
The role of the media is to inform the public.
Diplomats, because they are public officers, will always come under pubic scrutiny.
Mr Olmi cannot shy away from that fact.
The media has a right to search for answers, for the truth.
We appreciate that Mr Olmi would prefer to let bygones be bygones and restore the high commission’s prestige and reputation.
But we have to ask the question: “How serious does an offence have to be to warrant the recall of a diplomat?”