On 15 May 2023, The Ombudsman Commission met with the Hon. Justin Tkatchenko BEM, OL, MP, Member for Moresby-South following the public outcry regarding his daughter Savannah’s “flaunting” of her attendance to the Coronation of King Charles III as reported in various international media outlets in the region and as a heavily trending topic on social media.
The Commission in performing its constitutional duties and responsibilities as provided under Sections 218 and 219 of the Constitution and in being responsible for the supervision of the Leadership Code (Division II.2) reminded the leader of his duties and responsibilities under Section 27 of the Constitution.
Whilst the Commission acknowledges that statements made to the media in describing Papua New Guineans as “Primitive Animals” were made as a reaction to his daughter receiving online abuse from internet trolls, Hon. Justine Tkachenko, BEM, OL, MP has a mandated duty that is assumed when he takes leadership office and it continues through the entire tenure of that office.
In safeguarding its purposes and functions under the respective laws, the Ombudsman Commission has already received an avalanche of complaints from the public and will treat each complaint accordingly.
Leadership Function of the Ombudsman Commission
As Hon. Justine Tkachenko, BEM, OL, MP is a leader subject to the Leadership Code, in the supervision of the enforcement of the Leadership Code, the Commission’s operations are embodied in the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership (OLDRL) with quite distinct procedures for investigations as guided by its standard operating procedures (SOP).
The Commission is obliged to investigate all complaints either on its own initiative or on complaint by any person. It is also obliged by law to accept and investigate all complaints on alleged or suspected misconduct in office by a person to whom the Leadership Code applies unless, in its deliberate judgment, it decides not to do so because:-
(a) the complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith; or
(b) the complaint has been too long delayed to justify an investigation; or
(c) the subject matter of the complaint is outside the jurisdiction of the Commission; or
(d) its resources are insufficient for adequate investigation, where it may defer or discontinue an investigation for any of the same reasons.
In all its investigations, the Commission may make such inquiries as it deems appropriate to establish the relevant facts giving rise to the complaint and to form a view on the merits by conducting investigations in an impartial and non-adversarial manner.
In meeting with Hon. Justin Tkatchenko BEM, OL, MP, the Ombudsman Commission reminded him of Section 27(3)(a)(b) of the Constitution that as a public figure, his first responsibility is to the people he represents or on whose behalf he is working.
A Leader’s first loyalty must be to his office and not to himself and that responsibility must override self-interest. The Commission in its endeavour to promote good governance and accountability from its Leaders reiterates to all leaders that their loyalty to the office must spring from their genuine concerns for the country.
It is always expected of a patriot that he will put his country’s interest before his own. In the event of any conflict of interests, the interest of the people he serves must prevail over his own personal interest, the higher the office held in state the more serious the office holders responsibility.
The Commission would like the public to understand that in the exercise of its powers and the performance of its functions, it is not subject to direction and control by any person or authority.
Additionally, as much as the Commission desires to address the public concerns immediately and keep everyone informed on the “public outcry” for the Commission to deal with Hon. Justin Tkatchenko BEM, OL, MP”, the Commission is subject to confidentiality of all its investigations and has a duty to protect its independence, impartiality and integrity at all times in the process of discharging its Constitutional duties and functions hence it is not obliged to notify anyone of the progress of any of its investigations.
The Commission is required by law to observe the principles of natural justice and general fairness very highly, especially to those subject to the investigations, before making a finding at the conclusion of an investigation.