PNG bishop calls for life ban on corrupt leaders

NSW-born Archbishop Brian Barnes of Port Moresby has called for Papua New Guinea leaders guilty of serious official misconduct to be banned from public office for life in order to weed out deep-seated corruption in government.

The Nation reports that addressing the parliamentary committee reviewing the work of PNG's Ombudsman Commission this week, Bishop Barnes said the Commission needs to strengthen its role as watchdog over the Government.

He said the Commission was doing a very good job bringing leaders to account, but there were public concerns that the current review of the watchdog could lead to a weakening of its powers.

"We need to preserve intact the Ombudsman Commission as it is; we should strengthen it, we certainly should not weaken it."

The Commission in recent months has referred several Government ministers to the public prosecutor for investigation over alleged misuse of public funds or failure to provide spending records. The penalty for a guilty verdict is a ban from public office for up to three years.

But Bishop Barnes said the three-year ban was "a joke", suggesting lifetime bans for very serious offences and nothing less than 10 years for serious offences.

"Corruption is deep-seated in Papua New Guinea life, particularly political life. One issue related to this is the penalties," he said.

PNG Council of Churches spokesman Lawrence Stephens also urged a strengthening of the Commission and an increase in penalties, saying the current "short time in the sin bin" sends to wrong message to the public about PNG's battle against corruption.

Sir Brian Barnes was born in Wingham, on the north coast of NSW, but as a missionary and Franciscan friar, he became a citizen of Papua New Guinea in 1976, and then Archbishop of Port Moresby in 1997.

Business and church reps back watchdog (The National 14/6/2006)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Port Moresby

Sir Brian Barnes, Archbishop of Port Moresby (CathNews 14/7/2005)

15 Jun 2006