Posted By Staff Reporter
LABELLING the corruption case as the worst of its kind, National Court Judge Theresa Berrigan jailed former National Capital District (NCD) election manager Terence Hetinu the maximum seven years with light labour on Friday.
Hetinu, 51, from Kainantu’s Biteve village in Eastern Highlands, corruptly received K184,300 from Michael Kandiu to influence the outcome of the election for the NCD seat in 2017 general election.
Judge Berrigan said those entrusted with power and authority in public office, at any level of the public service, must be accountable to the people.
“This was corruption of the worst kind, warranting the maximum penalty,” she said.
“This case involved gross breach of trust.
“It should never be forgotten that free and fair elections are the foundation upon which every thriving democracy rests, ensuring that government derives from the will of the people.
“The right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution, and that right is sacred. The future of the country depends on it.
“As the country faces (general election), a severe penalty must be imposed as a clear warning to potential offenders, and to maintain public confidence in the electoral process.”
Judge Berrigan noted that it was unclear what portion of the monies were for Hetinu’s personal benefit and what were to be paid to polling officials to secure Kandiu’s election.
“But it is the corrupt receipt of the monies by Hetinu in the discharge of his duties that is at the heart of this offence,” she said.
“The monies were received pursuant to a memorandum of agreement (MoA) between Kandiu, Hetinu and coordinator for Moresby North-East electorate Williue Winstand Ipuia, under which an unspecified sum of monies was made available to Hetinu and Ipuia for distribution amongst themselves, their families and for distribution ensuring the election of Kandiu.”
Judge Berrigan added that upon Kandiu’s election, Hetinu was to be awarded all security contracts with the NCD Commission for a period of at least five years, subject to renewal.
“In this case, Hetinu corruptly received monies for the purpose of ‘rigging’ the election in the course of his duties.”
Hetinu’s lawyer submitted that “this was not an offence of the worst kind because Hetinu’s attempts to influence the election outcome were thwarted because he was caught in possession of the cash”.
“Despite having those factors, I remain of the view that this is an offence of the worst kind having regard to the nature and extent of the abuse of trust involved,” Judge Berringan said.
“Hetinu was the election manager for NCD.
“It was he who had overall responsibility to organise and conduct free and fair elections in NCD.
“And it was he who supervised the polling officials he intended to influence.
“Furthermore, it is clear that the offence is one that must have had a serious effect on public confidence.”
Judge Berringan said the maximum penalty for the offence was seven years imprisonment and a fine at the discretion of the court.
The court, in considering Hetinu’s age and health, sentenced him to seven years with light labour, to be served in Bomana Prison. The court did not impose any fine.
Judge Berringan said the purpose of the Electoral Commission was to ensure that free, safe and fair elections.
“Public confidence in the electoral process, and, indeed, those elected to office, depends upon the integrity of the Electoral Commission,” she said.
“Corruption is prevalent, as are efforts to interfere with the electoral process.”
The National / PNG Corruption Watch
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