Case 6.2 – Djoko Tjandra
Riddled with allegations of corruption and scandals, the case of Indonesian businessman Djoko Tjandra was subject to widespread criticism for the role the Papua New Guinean Government played in paving the way for Tjandra to become a PNG citizen. Tjandra fled Jakarta to Malaysia a day prior to his sentencing on grounds of fraud for his part in illegally receiving $57 million of the Bank Bali funds (Callick, The Australian, 2012). Once he was in Malaysia, the Papua New Guinean Government became involved when it transported Tjandra from Malaysia to Port Moresby on the Government’s Falcon jet sparking diplomatic tussle between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (The National, 2012).
In 2012, Tjandra was granted Papua New Guinean citizenship and later an APEC passport after just three years of residing in Papua New Guinea, a move attracting criticism and allegations of corruption. The decision to grant him citizenship after just three years of residency was contrary to section 67 of the Constitution which states that a person who resides in the country for at least eight years may apply to be a naturalised citizen. Tjandra’s PNG citizenship further went under heavy criticism in April 2016 with the Opposition criticising the O’Neill Government for giving refuge to the Indonesian fugitive in breach of international law (Hakalits, EMTV, 2016).
Despite Tjandra’s status as an Indonesian fugitive and allegations of corruption levelled against the Government and him in the process involved in the granting of his citizenship, Tjandra and the O’Neill Government signed an agreement to repair and refurbish the State-owned Central Government Building in a K145 million deal (Waeda, Loop PNG, 2016). There were instances where senior government ministers supported moves by a Djoko Tjandra-subsidiary Naima Agroindustry to be given a monopoly in rice production in the Central Province (Callick, The Australian, 2013).
In 2016, the Indonesian Government through their Attorney-General renewed calls for the return of Tjandra to face his charges and failure to do so may put Papua New Guineans who may face severe penalties in Indonesia at risk as the Government of Indonesia would not negotiate lenient penalties (Faiparik, The National, 2016). Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato responded by saying that Tjandra would be deported once all international rules were complied with and both countries had signed eight memorandum of understandings and three treaties so the deportation process would not be easy.
The Tjandra case came under the spotlight in April 2018 when the Ombudsman Commission tabled in Parliament their findings which contained an investigation into the improper and unlawful issuance of entry permits and issuance of a PNG passport to Djoko Tjandra, alias Joe Chan, by PNG Immigration and Citizenship Services Authority (Faiparik, The National, 2018). The investigation naming high level Government officials found that Djoko Tjandra was issued his first passport in 2012 without providing evidence of citizenship and his certificate of citizenship was signed by the Minister for Immigrations and Citizenship Ano Pala two weeks before he was issued a passport. The Chief Migration Officer Mataio Rabura then unlawfully issued the passport. The report also implicated former acting Chief Migration Officer Joseph Nobetau and former immigration visa director Delilah So’osane for issuing Tjandra two Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation business travel cards in 2009 (Post Courier, 2018). In response, Ano Pala denied that he had abused the process in granting Tjandra’s citizenship and claims he had no knowledge of an extradition request by the Indonesian Government (RadioNZ, 2018). Member for Sinasina-Yonggamugl and Opposition MP Kerenga Kua who was the Attorney-General during the time commented saying that the findings have all been known to the Government for a long time and he sought cabinet approval during the time to begin court action to have Tjandra’s citizenship revoked but he was frustrated by bureaucratic red tape (Fox, ABC News, 2018).
In July 2018, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill in Parliament said that he had given instructions for Government officers and people named in the Ombudsman Commission’s report who are allegedly involved in facilitating the entry of Indonesian fugitive Djoko Tjandra to be removed from public service and investigated (Faiparik, The National, 2018). The Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Steven Davis said they were now in the process of implementing the Ombudsman Commission’s recommendation to investigate Tjandra. This was followed by a statement by Police Minister Jelta Wong saying that they are now awaiting advice from the Immigration and Citizenship Authority before investigating Indonesian fugitive Djoko Tjandra and how he obtained PNG citizenship (The National, 2018).
PNG’s continued association with Tjandra raises ethical questions on how our leaders want Papua New Guineans to be seen on the global stage. Are we global citizens promoting world values such as human rights, religious pluralism, gender equality, the rule of law, environmental protection and poverty alleviation? Or do we create our own definitions of world values and apply them at our convenience disregarding what other citizens and nationalities aspire for to create a peaceful, just and inclusive society? These questions remain unanswered until the Government decides to take a strong stand and work in partnership with the Indonesian Government to extradite Tjandra to Indonesia to face his charges. The Government must be commended for taking a tougher approach in dealing with Tjandra and the officers who were involved by following the recommendations of the Ombudsman Commission. However, the outcome of the investigations into Tjandra is yet to be released to the public.
~ Reference/Bibliography ~
Callick, R. (2012, June 21). PNG takes in Jakarta fugitive Joko Tjandra. The Australian. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/png-takes-in-jakarta-fugitive-joko-tjandra/news-story/ab4f5d395853d67f770e1a651cb5b15c
Who is Djoko Soegiarto Tjandra? The National. (2012, June 21). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/who-is-djoko-soegiarto-tjandra/
Hakalits, F. (2016, April 6). Tjandra’s citizenship questioned. EMTV. Retrieved from https://emtv.com.pg/tjandras-citizenship-questioned/
Waeda, J. (2016, April 1). Contractor funds K145 million for govt building. Loop PNG. Retrieved from http://www.looppng.com/tags/refurbished-central-government-building-cgb
Faiparik, C. (2016, July 16) Indonesia still wants Tjandra. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/indonesia-still-wants-tjandra/
Faiparik, C. (2018, April 4) OC: Flaws in passport case. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/oc-flaws-passport-case/
Report highlights abuse in granting Tjandra citizenship. Post Courier. (2018, July 19). Retrieved from https://postcourier.com.pg/report-highlights-abuse-granting-tjandra-citizenship/
Former PNG minister denies abuse of process in Tjandra case. Radio New Zealand. (2018, April 9). Retrieved from https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/354503/former-png-minister-denies-abuse-of-process-in-tjandra-case
Fox, L. (2018, April 12) Indonesian fugitive Djoko Tjandra’s PNG citizenship unlawful, Ombudsman Commission finds – ABC News. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-12/png-citizenship-given-to-fugitive-djoko-tjandra-unlawful/9644772
Faiparik, C. (2018, July 18) Tjandra case returns. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/tjandra-case-returns/ Wong waits for Immigration on Tjandra probe. The National. (2018, July 30). Retrieved from https://www.thenational.com.pg/wong-waits-for-immigration-on-tjandra-probe/