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24 October 2006

the Mother of All Sex Scandals sinks cooperation, Oz leadership in Melanesia

Sheraton Fiji Resort in Nadi, site of the
Pacific Islands Forum
of leaders from
Papua New Guinea, the Solomon
Vanuatu, Fiji and Australia.

The Age (national broadsheet, Australia)
Tuesday 24 October 2006

Papua New Guinea leader
unleashes outburst at Australia

by Brendan Nicholson, Nadi, Fiji

AUSTRALIA'S relations with South Pacific nations have reached a new low after Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare accused the Federal Government of treating neighbouring countries with arrogance and contempt.

Sir Michael's anger boiled over at a regional leaders summit in Fiji, being attended by Prime Minister John Howard, as three other Melanesian nations also joined PNG in lashing out at Australia.

The anger centred on last week's raid on the office of the Solomon Islands Prime Minister by local police and Australian officers, a raid the PNG leader suggested had been ordered by Canberra.

"I think this is typical of an arrogant attitude of your leaders, treating the leaders of the region with contempt," Sir Michael said.

He also expressed dismay at being banned from entering Australia over his country's role in helping fugitive Solomon Islands MP Julian Moti, who is wanted in Australia to face child sex charges.

Mr Howard, speaking after his arrival in Fiji yesterday for the Pacific Islands Forum, said the raid on the office of Solomons PM Manasseh Sogavare was a police operation and any suggestion that Australia was involved was utterly wrong.

He said he was sure the issues could be resolved. "I'm quite sure, as so often is the case with these things, that some gentle discussion in the balmy breezes of the Pacific can do wonders to soothe nerves and reconcile differences."

"We'll have a nice chat and see how it all works out," he said.

Officers serving with the Solomons' Australian-led Participating Police Force took part in the raid, in which a door was forced open and a fax machine seized as part of inquiries into the Julian Moti affair.

Mr Sogavare wants Moti as his attorney-general and has refused to hand over the controversial Australian lawyer to face child sex charges in Australia involving a 13-year-old girl in Vanuatu in 1997.

Mr Sogavare was incensed by the raid on his offices and has threatened to expel the expensive Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) from his country.

Yesterday, Solomon Islands and Australian-led regional assistance police in Honiara announced a joint investigation into the police raid in response to a complaint about it.

In a statement, police said when any official complaint of police conduct is made, it is referred for investigation by professional standards officers.

In Fiji, Sir Michael said the police must have been told to go and get the documents and "that direction must have come from somewhere in Australia."

The raid was also condemned in a joint statement by four member nations of the forum -- PNG, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji.

The statement said the action by Australian members of the international police team was "provocative, uncalled for and unnecessary" and was a serious violation of Solomons integrity.

The fact that Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, the cool-headed forum host, signed the statement reflects the depth of feeling about the police raid.

Mr Qarase said he was confident the row would be resolved.

Sir Michael also hit out at the decision by Australia to ban him and his ministers from entering Australia until they can properly explain how Moti was flown on a PNG military aircraft to the Solomons while Australia was trying to extradite him.

This was the first time he had been barred from stepping onto Australian soil, Sir Michael said. "I've dealt with them for 40 years, all prime ministers from Liberal and Labor," he said.

"I don't know what the motive was. It's a real insult, an insult to me personally, a person who has known Australian people for all these years.

"It's insulting to a leader like me."

Sir Michael said the working relationship and rapport built up before and since PNG attained independence had been discarded.

He said the police action upset many local nations because they believed it was wrong for the police to kick down the door of the prime minister of another country.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has been cast in the role of mediator, a term she rejected in favour of "friend of the chair."

She said last night the Solomons mission would not be viable without Australia and she wanted RAMSI's role reaffirmed by the forum.

"Australia has supplied the bulk of the money and the bulk of the personnel," Miss Clark said. "For the mission to be successful it will need Australian input. It's best to look at these issues with both cool and wise heads.

"New Zealand has good relations right around the Pacific and Australia is our closest friend of all so of course we're looking for a way through this."

Mr Howard said he had always had great goodwill towards the people of PNG and the Solomon Islands.

[Note: Poor wording makes it hard to know whom to attribute the final paragraph to, a continuation of PM Howard's words, or some sort of "fact."]

The RAMSI mission had very strong popular support in Australia and was of real long-term benefit to the people of the Solomon Islands.

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1 comment:

viagra online said...

I can not believe that the New Guinea Minester acused neighbor countries of being arrogant and contempted. It is kind of weird to me.