‘Corruption fighter’ Justice Minister Kramer vows to contest PNG Ombudsman charges

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PNG Justice Minister Bryan Kramer
PNG Justice Minister Bryan Kramer ... “The allegations of scandalising the judiciary are misplaced and nonsensical." Image: APR

By Thierry Lepani in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s Justice Minister and Madang MP Bryan Kramer has been referred to the Public Prosecutor by the Ombudsman Commission for 14 counts of alleged misconduct charges.

The minister declared this at a media conference after the Ombudsman Commission delivered a letter informing him of the allegations and the referral.

Kramer, who has often been labelled as a “corruption fighter”, vowed to contest the charges.

He slammed the allegations, which come on the eve of the national elections in June, as “absurd” and “ridiculous” and from an “incompetent” Ombudsman Commission.

While details of the 14 allegations were not disclosed to the media, the Post-Courier understands two allegations relate to articles he posted on his Facebook account.

The first relates to Kramer allegedly scandalising the judiciary by posting articles insinuating a conflict of interest by Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika.

The second allegation also relates to Kramer scandalising the judiciary by posting articles accusing Ialibu-Pangia MP Peter O’Neill and his lawyers of filing a fake warrant of arrest to deceive and mislead the court in 2019.

Other allegations
Other allegations relate to misappropriation and misconduct through the Madang District Development Authority.

In a brief response to the allegations, Kramer said the following over the first two allegations:

“The allegations of scandalising the judiciary are misplaced and nonsensical. It’s not an insinuation.

“It’s a fact the CJ, who I understand is the complainant in this allegation, is a close friend of the former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and was appointed on an NEC submission sponsored by O’Neill.

“On the allegation scandalising the judiciary by posting articles on Facebook accusing O’Neill and his lawyers of filing a fake warrant of arrest to deceive and mislead the court in the matter OS JR No. 720 of 2019; the lawyer and registry staff were in fact criminally charged and after considering the evidence the Committal Court has ruled there is sufficient evidence to commit them to stand trial in the National Court.”

At Wednesday’s press conference Kramer discredited the investigations process applied by the Ombudsman Commission.

“On December 4 2021, I wrote to the Chief Ombudsman requesting an extension of time to respond to the allegations, and more importantly, asked that they provide the evidence they relied on to form the opinion that I was guilty of misconduct in office.”

He said his request was denied and he was told the investigations were confidential.

Convenient time for opponents
However, Kramer contends that after they formed their opinion, he should have been afforded the right to view the evidence. He noted that the timing of the referral had come at a convenient time for political opponents as the country is two months away from an election.

If a leadership tribunal is appointed to look into the allegations, Kramer will be subsequently suspended from office and duties.

“Everyone in this country knows, in terms of a member of Parliament that is carrying out major reforms in fighting corruption, would be myself.

“So given these allegations are ridiculous and the amount of corruption out there, that for some reason, the Ombudsman Commission saw fit to try pursuing allegations that, mind you, are completely ridiculous, against me on the eve of election,” he said.

“I intend to challenge these allegations, firstly, in the National Court, so seeking orders that the court direct the Ombudsman Commission provide me the evidence that I requested for breach of natural justice and once that evidence is provided then I look forward if the Ombudsman continue with these ridiculous allegations to then go before the tribunal and defend these allegations.”

Thierry Lepani is a PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.

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