PNG doc says he’s pursuing justice

Dr Maine Asapo, the doctor who was earlier accused of bringing the virus into the Solomon Islands
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A Papua New Guinea medical doctor, Dr Ma’ine Asapo has now settled down at his home a free man, but he says his fight for justice will continue.

Asapo said he is seeking legal advice with the intention to take the Solomon Islands government to court for defamation of character.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare earlier accused Asapo for being the “index” case of the COVID-19 community transmission that has since spread across the country.

Sogavare claimed Asapo “brought in the first Covid-19 transmission from Tasman to Palau on 9 January 2022.

Government later found the claim to be untrue because further investigation revealed the virus had already entered the community before Asapo arrived in Ontong Java.

Asapo was however, charged with one count of Prohibition of Entry of Non-Citizens and Restrictions of Movement of Small Craft vessel under the State of Public Emergency (SOPE).

But Sogavare intervened by exercising his power to deal with Asapo’s case administratively.

His was acquitted in court and fined $10,000.

In an exclusive interview from PNG, Asapo said his case is a clear example of the judiciary system being compromised and that the SOPE must end.

“The only thing that is very disturbing is I strongly believe the judiciary system is compromise; one can clearly see this in our case.

“The very person who is behind this has at the end interfered to save his face,” he said.

Asapo and his family flew out of the country on March 4 via a special flight that came in to pick up PNG police officers who have been serving here since December last year.

Asapo said he is happy to return home a free man but his fight for justice will continue

“I am seeking legal advice to determine my next course of action.”

When asked about his citizenship and why he travel to Ontong Java, he said he was born in Honiara and holds a PNG passport.

He explained that they travelled to OTJ because people have been travelling from Tasman to Luianiua every week since December 2021.

He said the list of border crossers are with the Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) RSIPF.

Asapo claimed the SI government has imposed this draconian SOPE Act without even considering the lives of those on the OTJ -Tasman border. 

“It is even stated very clearly in the SOPE Act section 8 (4).

“I am very sad how the PM and Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) have lied to the people of SI.

“This raises serious concern and makes us lose trust and hope in the current government,” he said.

Asapo requested the PM to make an official apology in black and white to him and his group both the SI and PNG media which they have also used to tarnish his reputation.

He said his other colleagues have also been acquitted but he did not understand why they are delaying this.

“I was advised their court case on Friday (4/03/22) has been adjourned to another 14 days. “This is very unfair and very concerning.

“We committed the same offence although our charges are different in a sense that we are from PNG.

“The other two are even my blood brothers who are SI citizens.”

Attorney General John Muria in a recent talk back show clarified that Asapo and his partner were acquitted in the court but they still commit the offence for entering the country illegally and were dealt with administratively under the SOPE.

He said there are two options under the regulation in terms of charging those that breach it.

First one is to have them charged and go through the criminal proceedings in courts.

The second is the Prime Minister has an option to impose administrative penalties.