BY MIRIAM ZARRIGA and LYNETTE KIL
Correctional Service Minister Roy Biyama announced that Stephen Pokanis will head all jails on an acting basis, backed by Public Service Minister Elias Kapavore, to replace Michael Waipo.
The third announcement in front of the Port Moresby media was made by senior officer Bernard Nepo that he was the rightful “heir to the throne”.
The two Government Ministers said in separate statements that the top job will go to deputy commissioner – corporate services Stephen Pokanis as the acting Commissioner until the end of the year.
The man claiming to have been appointed as the next Correctional Services Commissioner Bernard Nepo has been told his acting appointment was nullified the moment former Commissioner Michael Waipo was reinstated in 2016 after days of bitter struggle and a stand-off between the two men which landed in court.
Mr Kapavore confirmed the 2016 nullification, saying the recent media reports only fueled the fire with “false reporting” in the past couple of days.
Mr Nepo had claimed that he was twice appointed by the National Executive Council in 2016 as the Acting CS Commissioner and his appointment was still intact.
However, Mr Kapavore said: “I clarify that NEC decision No.10 /2016 dated August 9, 2016 reinstated Waipo as Commissioner. This nullifies the acting appointment of Bernard Nepo.
Mr Kapavore confirmed that Mr Waipo’s term of office expired on Monday, September 24.
“The former commissioner Waipo’s term expired … and could not be reconsidered. The Minister Correctional Services must take charge with the new acting Commissioner who has been a deputy for the past four years.”
Mr Kapavore said this acting appointment will be for a period of three months pending a substantive appointment.
“I seek cooperation from all rank-and-file officers to give their support to the incoming Commissioner for the best interest of the State and our stakeholders.
“We thank the outgoing commissioner Waipo, one of our distinguished civil servants. I hope he will be given that service recognition by the department,” Mr Kapavore said.
Mr Pokanis is a career Correctional Service officer and has worked his way up through the ranks to his current designation.
He has 29 years of experience as a Correctional Services administrator. He is from Lundret village in Manus Province.
“I would say it is an ill-advised announcement and media was not correctly informed. We must have the evidence and follow proper process,” he said.
“We wanted to get gazettal first before making an announcement, we have not seen anything coming from NEC for his (Nepo) appointment.
“I don’t want someone from the lower ranks to take the role which is why I nominated the Deputy Commissioner Mr Pokanis.”