Chief Ombudsman Richard Pagen and a team of senior officials met with the Students of the University of Papua New Guinea on 5 July 2023 on an awareness and information session at the UPNG Forum Square.
Present during the presentation was UPNG Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Mr Frank Griffin, Acting Registrar Mr Roboam Kakap, and the SRC President and senior members of the Ombudsman Commission.
The purpose of the Chief Ombudsman’s visit to UPNG was to explain to the students the roles and functions of the Ombudsman Commission and the processes involved in its investigations.
The Chief Ombudsman took the opportunity to provide update to the students on their two petitions which they presented to the Ombudsman Commission. These petitions relate to the issues involving the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigrations and Member for Moresby South the Hon. Justin Tkatchenko and also the Defence Cooperation Agreement which was recently signed between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the United States of America.
Mr Pagen pointed out to the students that the Ombudsman Commission performs its functions based on four main pillars found in Section 218 of the Constitution which sets out the matters which the Ombudsman Commission is established to consider, and he said that the Ombudsman Commission has a duty to ensure that governmental bodies are responsive to the needs and aspirations of our people.
The Chief Ombudsman said that the functions of the Ombudsman Commission are set out under Section 219 of the Constitution and that is to investigate and find prima facie in all its investigation as the Tribunals are taking a restrictive approach in dealing with Ombudsman Commission’s investigations.
He said that the Commission has a duty under the Constitution to ensure that its investigation is done properly so that it does not lack evidence when tried in a competent court or a tribunal.
Mr Pagen said the Ombudsman Commission is aware of the public outcry and had called the Moresby South MP to come in and explain to the Commission his actions as a leader. He added that what the former Foreign Affairs Minister said in which he used the words “primitive animals” supposedly to describe Papua New Guineans during an interview with a foreign news outlet was a culmination of many things that happened before and during the time and the Ombudsman Commission is responsible by law to investigate the case.
“We have to know the reason why the Minister said the word primitive animals not once or twice but three times during his interview.
Mr Pagen said the words were highly derogatory and in western countries their laws clearly states that a leader of such caliber must resign if they utter such terms. However in PNG the law falls short to say that the leader has to resign. because our forefathers did not state this when they drafted the laws (leadership code).
“In investigation, we have to know the events that unfolded before the words were spoken. The investigation can take us from PNG to England and all other issues that related to what the former Minister said.”
He said he cannot give a timeline to the investigation because investigations have their own processes however, the Ombudsman Commission will formally give an announcement of the outcome of its investigation once it is completed.
The Ombudsman Commission saw an avalanche of complaints from concerned groups and individuals demanding an investigation into the issue and also registered a own initiative compliant prior to the students and other interest groups registering their complaints.