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PNG Bishops secretary criticises Australia's "insult"

The General Secretary of Papua New Guinea's Bishops Conference has described an insistence that Australian police and officials in PNG be immune from prosecution as an insult to PNG that could undermine grassroots support for the plan.

Australia is working out the detail of an $800 million plan to send police and bureaucrats to stabilise Papua New Guinea. Canberra has committed to leave the police and bureaucrats in PNG for five years in an effort to stem extensive lawlessness and corruption. Port Moresby sees the move as an affront to its sovereignty, although it recognises the need.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer admits Australia is working on ways of obtaining the immunity.

Bishops' General Secretary Lawrence Stephens said in a letter to the local media that "throughout PNG there is a great affection for and gratitude to Australia".

"It is sad to see Australian officials trampling over this goodwill with blatant disrespect for the constitution and laws of this country," he said.

Mr Downer's spokesman said Port Moresby expected to be granted legal immunity for its forces in the Solomon Islands and should adopt the same standards for the Australian personnel going to PNG.

PNG stand-off over immunity (Sydney Morning Herald 15/3/04)

Catholic Church of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands | Secretariat

16 Mar 2004